The first time I made a venture to the Mid-America Science Museum I was 8. I had a chance to visit the museum again recently and walking through the doors transported me back to the excitement and curiosity I felt as a kid. The museum ( which is located in Hot Springs) provides a learning platform to the sciences and does a great job of blending the powers of imagination into the mix.
The museum has over 100 hands-on exhibits and new ones are constantly added to keep the experience new. Right now, an exhibit on dinosaurs are being featured and this runs until September 2. There are even baby dinos there. Did you know the largest dinosaur yet found has been the Argentinosaurus? It is believed to have been about 130 feet long and more than 80 tons. The robotic dinosaurs in the exhibit are ¾ scaled to what it is believed they looked like when they roamed the earth. If you don’t catch the dinos this time around, they will be getting another dinosaur exhibit called Dinosaur Discovery right after which will be a hands-on exhibit.
There is also a sky cycle exhibit that will be there through Sept. 2. This interactive exhibit allows visitors to experience the law of “center of gravity” and learn firsthand that any force causing the system to tip will be offset by the force of gravity acting on an attached counterweight. The bicycle, held in place by a large counterweight, allows visitors to pedal across a wire to test this law of gravity. The Tinkering Studio, which is exactly what is sounds like, has been a popular attraction for the museum too. When I visited kids were drawing animation scenes in the studio and watching them move via a zoetrope.
As to the permanent exhibits, one of my favorites is “Underground Arkansas”, a gigantic indoor cave filled with tunnels, swinging bridges, and slides. The Tesla Demonstration is also popular. According to Guinness World Records the museum has the world’s most powerful Tesla Coil. During the demonstration, viewers watch “caged lightning” and 1.5 million volts of electricity spark from it.
An expansion is also in the works for the exhibit. They will open March 2015 basically as a completely new museum thanks to a $7.8 million capital grant from the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation to renovate the museum’s building and exhibits.
Some staples of the permanent exhibits will stay like the Tesla Coil and such. But the majority will be new hands on exhibits. Within the next 6-7 months the museum said they will have details on what these new exhibits will be. Next summer is when construction is scheduled to kick off.
The 65,000 square foot museum is located in Mid-America Park on 21 wooded acres. The multi-million dollar facility is divided into two wings, connected by a glass-enclosed bridge that spans the outside stream. The museum was designed by museum architect E. Verner Johnson and Associates of Boston, MA and Stuck, Frier, Lane, Scott, Beisner of Little Rock and Jonesboro.
The Museum opened in 1979 and continues to partner with NASA for its space education programming. In 2001, the Museum was selected as a Smithsonian Affiliate, the first institution in the state to have this recognition. For more information on the museum, visit midmaericamusuem.org or call 501-767-3461. They are located at 500 Mid America Blvd.