Located in Richmond, Virginia, the Science Museum of Virginia is dedicated to enriching the lives of Virginians through science, serving as a catalyst for curiosity and exploration of the STEM fields. The museum's roots date back to the turn of the 20th century, when the Virginia General Assembly approved the construction of an exhibit center for scientific and industrial exhibits as part of the 1907 Jamestown Exposition.
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At the end of the exposition, the items were moved to the city's Capitol Square as part of the State Museum, opened in 1910, which also featured natural historical specimens. The history of the State Museum, reopened in 1964 and disassembled shortly thereafter, is closely tied to the city's desire to create an official state science museum, which was approved in 1943 but never completed due to World War II. After the second closing of the State Museum, Virginia's scientific community revisited its lobbying for the state science museum project, and on July 1, 1970, the General Assembly officially established the Science Museum of Virginia.
Museum staff struggled to find a permanent location over the next few years, but were eventually granted use of the Broad Street Station building, the former home of the Richmond, Fredericksburg, and Potomac Railroad. On January 6, 1977, the museum was dedicated and opened its first exhibit to the public in conjunction with the 58th anniversary of the Broad Street Station facility.
Permanent Exhibits and Attractions
The museum is home to a number of interactive exhibits tailored to the Virginia Standards of Learning, along with a planetarium showing giant-screen films and hosting astronomy presentations.
Speed, the museum's newest permanent area, features over 50 exhibits exploring the power of motion across a variety of sciences and disciplines. Five major sections include Speed of Sound and Light, which focuses on high-speed interstellar travel and technology; Sports Speed Matters, which features notable athlete memorabilia as it highlights the science behind popular sports; Too Fast To See, which slows down the processes behind motion and perception; Too Slow To See, which highlights the evolution of the area's natural history; and Machines Fast and Slow, examining the development of a variety of common technologies. Other features include an SR-71 Blackbird supersonic jet and an interactive light race traveling along the exhibit's ceiling.
Health and wellness are the focus of Boost!, which features a Kitchen Stadium area, where visitors can sample health recipes made by museum staff. The Idea Factory integrates art and science concepts in a variety of exhibit areas, including the foam block playspace Imagination Playground and a teen-only graphic arts area, The MiX. The museum's youngest visitors can enjoy LightPlace, an exploratory space for ages 5 and under. Question Power explores ecosystems spanning four billion years of Earth's history, teaching conservation and ecology principles. Rat basketball games are on display at Creatures, which also features a live animal lab and an observational honeybee hive, while the Out of this World exhibit features giant kugel balls, including a display of the museum's former Grand Kugel, which was the world's largest kugel ball until it cracked in 2003, leaving it unable to float.
For its 2017 season, the museum hosts the internationally renowned Da Vinci Alive: The Experience, the most comprehensive exhibit ever produced on legendary artist, scientist, and inventor Leonardo da Vinci. Developed by Australia's Grande Exhibitions, the exhibit encompasses the scope of da Vinci's work across the fields of mathematics, engineering, natural sciences, and the arts, allowing visitors to explore notable works and documents in touchscreen form. The gallery uses SENSORY4™ technology to immerse visitors in lighting and sound displays, forming a walkthrough cinematic experience highlighting his greatest inventions.
Standalone exhibits hosted in the station's former loading area include the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway Kanawha class locomotive #2732, the RF&P Railroad business car Car One, and Aluminaut, the Richmond-designed aluminum submarine responsible for the recovery of an atomic bomb in 1966. A cafe, The Periodic Table, and the Shop4Science gift store are also located inside the museum.
Ongoing Programs and Education
Opened in 1983, the Dome, formerly known as the Universe Planetarium and Space Theater, is the most technologically advanced theater of its kind in the world. Movies are shown daily on its giant NanoSeam™ screen, focusing on a variety of astronomy and nature topics. A variety of live science labs and demonstrations are also hosted throughout the museum daily, and special technology and graphic arts programming is held periodically at The MiX.
The museum's Climate Connections program connects visitors with climate change experts, focusing on resiliency-themed discussions. A lecture series brings in researchers focusing on climate change in Virginia, and an Extreme Event Challenge series teaches about community-scale disaster planning.
2500 W Broad St, Richmond, VA 23220, Phone: 804-864-1400