Museum of Science
Boston, MA 02114
In 1830, six men interested in natural history established the Boston Society of Natural History, an organization through which they could pursue their common scientific interests. Devoted to collecting and studying natural history specimens, the society displayed its collections in numerous temporary facilities until 1864, when it opened the New England Museum of Natural History at the corner of Berkeley and Boylston Streets in Boston's Back Bay. That Museum is now known world-wide as the Museum of Science.
After World War II, under the leadership of Bradford Washburn, the Society sold the Berkeley Street building, changed its name to the Boston Museum of Science (later, dropping Boston from the name) and negotiated with the Metropolitan District Commission a 99-year lease for land spanning the Charles River Basin, now known as Science Park. In 1948, the Museum designed and built the first traveling planetarium in New England to promote the development of a new Museum building. The cornerstone for the new Museum was laid at Science Park a year later, and a temporary building was erected to house the Museum's collections and staff.
In 1951, the first wing of the new Museum officially opened, making the Museum the first to embrace all the sciences under one roof. Comprising 14,000 square feet of exhibit space, the new Museum's first wing was already much larger than the entire exhibits area of the old Berkeley building. That same year, one of the most endearing and memorable symbols of the Museum, 'Spooky,' the Great Horned Owl, was given to the Museum as an owlet. Spooky lived to the age of 38 years, becoming the oldest known living member of his species.During the next two decades. the Museum greatly expanded its exhibits and facilities. In 1956, the Museum was successful in campaigning for a Science Park MBTA station that now brings visitors to within 200 yards of the Museum. The Charles Hayden Planetarium, funded by major gifts from the Charles Hayden Foundation, opened in 1958.
By 1968, further building expansion was under way as ground was broken for the Museum's west wing which was completed in the early 1970s. The Elihu Thomson Theater of Electricity, which houses the 2 1/2 million-volt Van de Graaff generator -- the two-story tall high voltage electricity generator given to the Museum by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1956-opened in 1980.
The Museum has remained on the cutting edge of science education by developing innovative and interactive exhibits and programs that both entertain and educate.
Two of the Museum's more recent additions, the Hall Wing housing the Roger L. Nichols Gallery for temporary exhibits, and the Mugar Omni Theater, exemplify the Museum of Science's commitment to making science fun and accessible to all. The Mugar Omni Theater, opened in 1987, utilizes state-of-the-art film technology to project larger-than-life images onto a five-story high, domed screen, creating a 'you are there' experience for viewers.
More than 1.6 million people visit the Museum and its more than 400 interactive exhibits each year.