Mid-America Science Museum was conceptualized as the first interactive, informal learning environment in Arkansas when the Arkansas General Assembly passed Act 515 establishing the Arkansas Museum and Cultural Commission in 1971. Composed of seven gubernatorial appointees from state congressional districts, the State Commission was responsible for planning, developing, constructing and operating the Mid-America Science Museum in Garland County.
In September 1974, the State Commission's initial staff opened temporary offices in the Medical Arts Building located in Hot Springs National Park. Here the first museum offices were established and original exhibit designs and development took place. The present 57,000 square foot facility was constructed in Mid-America Park on 21 beautiful 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, Arkansas.
The Museum opened to the public on January 20, 1979. Sunday, April 22, 1979, was proclaimed "Mid America Day" by the mayor of Hot Springs as the Museum was dedicated by then Governor Bill Clinton in a Grand Opening Ceremony. The Museum was featured in the January 1980, issue of Southern Living magazine with four full color pages. It also received the “Henry Award” from the Governor’s Conference on Tourism in 1982.
The Museum has been cited with many honors throughout its history. It was selected as the "Parent's Choice" award as the Best Museum for Families in 1995. The Museum was selected as the official Star Station One site for the state of Arkansas which was a national educational program about the International Space Station. The Museum continues to partner with NASA for its space education programming.
In November 2001, the Museum was selected as a Smithsonian Affiliate. It became the ninetieth museum in the nation to receive this honor and the first institution in Arkansas to have this prestigious recognition. In 2003 the Museum became a partner in a statewide network of Museums dedicated to inquiry learning, The Donald W. Reynolds Foundation’s Arkansas Children’s Museums Discovery Network.
The Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism owned the Museum until June 2001, when the facility and property were deeded to the Hot Springs Advertising and Promotion Commission. In late 2004, the Museum began efforts to reorganize as a private 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. The Museum now operates with an independent Board of Directors.
In 2011, the Museum was awarded a $7.8 million grant from the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation to renovate the facility and install new exhibits. Construction and exhibit installation will begin in 2014, culminating in an all-new Museum in 2015.
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