The Beet Street Blog

A New Discovery Coming to Fort Collins

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 I grew up in the middle of cornfields – only 60 miles from Chicago, but it was rare for me to be in the big city. In grade school, I remember a particular field trip to the Museum of Science & Industry right before the holidays. The exhibit that captured my attention isn’t exactly what you’d expect at that museum – Christmas trees from around the world. I remember standing in front of a tree representing Greece decorated in blue and white and imagining a faraway place.

 Fast forward 20 years and 11 years living in that big city – trees from around the world is still one of my favorite memories. It sparked my imagination and dared me to dream big…I went back many times over the years to get lost in my thoughts and in the trees. I’ve actually been fortunate to visit Greece twice in my life…and many other places I dreamed about as a kid standing in front of those trees.

Museum Illustration

I was reminded of this experience Monday night at an event at Odells updating the progress of the new Fort Collins Museum & Discovery Science Center, which is set to break ground soon at Cherry and College. What struck me about the museum is yes, it has really cool, unique exhibits, but the spirit of it seems different than other museums I’ve visited. One of the presenters described it as a “hybrid approach of culture and science” – the theme being how historical events and scientific advancements connect to each of our lives.

Digital Dome Illustration

Digital Dome Illustration

Now I’ve always been a dreamer, but there are those places that make you feel introspective and beg you to think about your role in the world. I feel most museums achieve this here and there, but what excites me about the new Fort Collins Museum & Discovery Science Center, is the whole museum is built around this concept.

Here are some of the interesting things I learned about the new museum…  

  • Interact: During the presentation, someone in the audience asked “what’s coolest thing about the new museum?” One of the presenters mentioned the interactive elements. “The idea is, you not only see what something is like, you feel it,” said the presenter. From what I understand, the litmus test for the exhibits and programming will be whether they inspire this connection.
  • Energy:  The building, designed by OZ Architecture and Hensel-Phelps Construction will run on 50 percent of the energy required by similar buildings. The building was also specially designed so you can see some of the machines at work. As one of the presenters put it, visitors will “Get the sense of how pieces interact – see how systems work and are integrated.”
  • Giving back: You’ll be able to see the systems and much more from the free zone, also known as the Observation Deck.  Because the museum has been in the community for century, it wants to give back and make some things free. The Observation deck will offer unobstructed views of scenery including Long’s Peak.
  • Take flight: The exhibit that elicited the most excitement from the panel was the Digital Dome. One of the presenters described it as a hybrid planetarium and Omnimax experience. They emphasized it isn’t just about astronomy – although expect to spend some time exploring Saturn’s rings.  I was excited about the prospect of not just seeing the Grand Canyon, but the experience of flying through it.
  •  Contribute: As a visitor, you won’t just be a viewer, expect to become part of the exhibits. A focus of the museum staff is finding ways to incorporate visitor contributed content. The staff is currently running in-house experiments to come up with ways to elicit response and get people to participate in the exhibits. Have ideas? Share them here and with the museum staff.

 These are just a few of the things you can expect at the new museum. Find more details about the plans on the museum Web site. What museums and exhibits have stuck with you over the years? What would you like to see in the new museum?

 In the homestretch

The museum already has raised $19 million of the $24 million it expects to need for the entire project. There is still a big fundraising push for the digital dome in particular. Contributions of $1,000 or more may qualify for the Enterprise Zone Tax Credit, which permits a 25 percent tax credit.   

I just have to mention, I met two of the planners from Gyroscope Inc., a company that helps museums build exhibits and solicit all of the necessary components. They also help capture the unique personality of the museum and community in which it operates. In my opinion, these guys have a pretty cool job. Thank you to Annette Geiselman, Executive Director and Cheryl Donaldson, Director of the Fort Collins Museum who answered a lot of my questions and who have obviously poured their hearts into this project. Here is a link to information about all of the designers involved in the project:

Outdoor space plan for the museum

Outdoor space plan for the museum

Written by TanyaFlynn

July 21st, 2010 at 9:03 am

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