CHARLOTTE – Discovery Place has served generations of Carolinians over the past 75 years – from its humble beginnings when local teacher Laura Owens sought a hands-on environment for students to observe and learn about the natural world to its position today as one of the leading science museums in the U.S.
When its doors formally opened in 1947, Discovery Place Nature – known at the time as the Children’s Nature Museum – was the first nature museum in the Southeast designed to educate and inspire children.
Over the ensuing decades the organization has expanded to serve audiences of all ages across the Carolinas. It was recognized in 2017 as a finalist for the National Medal by the Institute for Museum and Library Science.
“We are honored to be part of this incredible community that has supported us for 75 years and journeyed with us from a single room to the leading hub for science education in the Carolinas,” said Catherine Wilson Horne, Discovery Place president and CEO. “We have touched so many lives as a longtime provider of science education and looking to the future Discovery Place has plans to make an even bigger impact on the next generation and beyond.”
To celebrate 75 years of discovery, Discovery Place announces plans for investing in each of its four Museum locations with new physical experiences and programming.
Discovery Place Nature
Established in 1947 in the former Sunshine School building, Discovery Place Nature was the first Discovery Place Museum in Charlotte.
Its current facility, adjacent to Freedom Park, opened in 1951 and has become a beloved Charlotte landmark known for inviting the community to connect with and explore the wonders of our natural world.
On Earth Day 2022, Discovery Place Nature unveiled design plans for a reimagined nature experience that will be a world-class museum serving the Carolinas, featuring a free public plaza filled with wildlife and native plants.
Discovery Place Science
Forty-one years ago, Discovery Place Science opened its doors on North Tryon Street and became one of the driving forces for economic development in Charlotte’s Uptown area.
Today the museum welcomes hundreds of thousands of visitors every year as the flagship Discovery Place Science Museum. The museum has undergone several renovations and expansions over the years, and in 2022 reopened the fully digital and upgraded Accenture IMAX Dome Theatre and Planetarium.
The theater transformation gives Discovery Place Science an opportunity to reintroduce and build upon its Adult Science offerings with programming from a new Digistar 7 planetarium system as well as Hollywood blockbuster films.
This month, Discovery Place Science will open Beansprouts café to provide guests with healthy dining options and in 2023 will unveil expanded exhibit experiences on the museum’s main floor, which will support larger international exhibitions in the future.
Featured exhibitions coming to Discovery Place Science this winter and early spring:
• Science Fiction/Science Future will be on exhibition Nov. 19, 2022 – January 1, 2023. In an era where science fiction has become reality, this exhibition engages visitors with hands-on and full-body experiences incorporating invisibility, mind control, holograms and augmented reality. “Science Fiction/Science Future” was created by the renowned Scitech in Perth, Australia and produced by Imagine Exhibitions.
• Top Secret: License to Spy will open Jan. 28 and run through April 16, 2023. Focusing on the science and technology of espionage, “Top Secret” lets you play the role of secret agent and learn how espionage-related technologies can be used in the wider world. “Top Secret: License to Spy” is created by Scitech Discovery Centre, Perth, Australia, and produced by Imagine Exhibitions.
• The Bias Inside Us will have a limited-run engagement at Discovery Place Science, opening March 11, 2023 as part of its journey through 40 cities across the country. Examining the science and history of bias, this community engagement project is grounded in research to help people understand and counter their implicit biases. “The Bias Inside Us” is organized by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service.
Early next year Discovery Place Science will announce its first post-pandemic international blockbuster exhibition for Charlotte.
Discovery Place Kids – Huntersville
In 2010 Discovery Place expanded its footprint in the Charlotte region with the opening of Discovery Place Kids in Huntersville, featuring interactive exhibitions and state-of-the-art labs to engage children, adults and families in real-world science, nature and design problem-solving.
This fall the museum will undergo an extensive garden renovation thanks to a gift from Colonial Pipeline. Along with a hands-on garden for visitors to explore, the grant will serve as an investment in the community by allowing Discovery Place educators to facilitate high-quality STEM programming in local schools throughout the school year.
Discovery Place Kids – Rockingham
The second children’s museum opened in Rockingham in 2013, expanding the Discovery Place footprint beyond Charlotte. Celebrating 10 years in February, the museum will begin construction on a new centerpiece experience and shift some of its current exhibits to offer guests a new experience.
New features include:
• A major physics exhibit featuring simple machines and force-in-motion activities
• Innovative climbing experience connecting all the museum floors.
• Redesigned exhibits to connect with the region’s quarry industry as well as local natural landmarks Hitchcock Creek and Hinson Lake
Discovery Place will celebrate its anniversary into the fall of 2023 and has plans to highlight its history as well as what’s in store for the future with new digital content – featuring stories from the community and a look through the archives. To participate in “Share your Stories,” members from the Charlotte community and beyond can simply complete the online submission form here. Stay up to date with the latest news and content by visiting discoveryplace.org.