Young and old gathered this past weekend for a final visit to the Miami Museum of Science. On Sunday, the Museum shuttered its doors in preparation for its highly anticipated move to a sprawling new facility in downtown Miami's Museum Park, where it will re-open in Summer 2016.
The museum leaves behind its historic Coconut Grove location along with a 50-year legacy as one of the community's most beloved centers for learning.
"I think what I really love most of all about the Museum is the people and how they come in to use the place," Gillian Thomas, President and CEO of the Frost Museum of Science, said. "It's very much at the heart of the community and that's something we'll carry with us when we go."
Founded by the Junior League of Miami in 1949, the museum quickly outgrew its original location in a private home along Bayshore Drive. It would relocate once more before finding its home in a three-acre space on the historic Vizcaya complex in 1960, adding a state-of-the-art planetarium in 1967 – making the Miami Museum of Science the only U.S. museum with such an operation.
Countless Miamians fondly remember a childhood spent visiting the museum, and frequently returned as they've grown to start families of their own. "I've been coming to this museum since 1986," Manuel Garriga said, accompanied on Sunday by two generations of museum-goers – his father and his three kids. "This museum is really special to us, but we are super excited to visit the new museum – especially the shark tank."
Others, like Frank Perillo or "Fossil Frank" as he's affectionately known in the community, have turned their love of science into a rewarding career. "I've worked at the museum for 12 years, educating patrons on geology, fossilogy, and mineralogy" said Fossil Frank, whose astounding collection of shells, fossils, and minerals aged millions of years has been on loan to the museum frequently over the years.
Even teenagers had a reason to visit the museum, attending the infamous laser light shows set to Pink Floyd on Friday nights. "Out of all the things I loved about the museum as a kid, I kept coming back even through college for those trippy shows," chuckled Jacky Donate, a lifelong 305-er.
"I think the museum has very well captured the spirit of Miami and tried to interpret it, and that's what it's trying to do for the future as well," said Thomas. From the Batchelor Wildlife Center to the interactive exhibits planned at the new facility, the Frost makes it a point to use Miami's subtropical climate and unique atmospheric environment. "We have a lot of exhibitions that are undercover but outside, so we've tried to make every bit of the building a South Florida experience," Thomas noted.
Though the museum is officially closed, it will continue to host pop-up events all over the community.
"It's really important for me to remind everyone that the Wildlife Center will continue to receive injured birds, and will continue to function at the old space until we have the new facility built," Thomas said. Additionally, many staff members will continue to operate out of the Coconut Grove location as they prepare to make the move. Though the museum will close its physical location, it will still continue to be active in the community, providing educational programs and more.
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Museum patrons have a lot to be excited for at the new facility, including a 500,000 gallon salt water shark tank, a new and improved planetarium projection system that boasts twice the visual clarity of the world's most advanced TV, and an Innovation Center that will feature an Inventors in Residence program, and will focus on imagining the future of the Magic City. But you'll have to wait to marvel at the massive shark tank, the Frost plans to celebrate its grand reopening sometime during the Summer of next year.
"As we get to the new museum, we're focusing on creating a fabulous platform where all kinds of new things can happen," Thomas said. "Our focus has always been on education, and I hope even better ideas come about as the museum develops in its new location."
The Museum of Science has officially closed in anticipation of its move to Museum Park. The Batchelor Wildlife Center will continue to accept injured birds at the existing location. In addition, the Museum will host a series of pop-up events throughout the city. For a schedule of events, visit frostscience.org.
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