Adventure Science Center undergoes major transformation, debuts $1.8M exhibits - Southern Business Review

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Friday, June 28, 2019

Adventure Science Center undergoes major transformation, debuts $1.8M exhibits


The Adventure Science Center is preparing to launch its first new exhibit in 10 years as part of a complete overhaul of the popular educational institution.


The nonprofit science museum will debut the music-themed soundBox exhibit and a major expansion of its Innovation Incubator at 9 a.m. on Monday. The projects totaled $1.8 million and are just the first steps toward creating a more inclusive, hands-on learning experience for guests of all ages.


“We are on a multi-year trajectory to completely transform the Adventure Science Center, and transform it not just in a physical way with new carpet and wallpaper, but really transform the nature of the experience here and who it’s for and what the purpose of that experience is designed to do,” said Adventure Science Center CEO Steve Hinkley.


Hinkley joined the Nashville museum in 2017 from MOXI, The Wolf Museum of Exploration + Innovation in Santa Barbara, California. One of the first changes he made was to move away from a model of renting traveling exhibits in favor of creating a permanent exhibit that helps tell Nashville’s story.


The science of music and sound


The new soundBox exhibit, which was underwritten by The Frist Foundation and has been in development for nearly two years, allows guests to explore the science of music and sound through 14 hands-on social experiences, all while celebrating Nashville’s music community. The exhibit is intended for people of all ages.


Museum visitors can create their own music tracks and visualize beats on glowing walls, play in a virtual band, scan their fingerprints to convert the ridges into songs and animations and more.




Profiles of Nashville music industry professionals are showcased throughout the space, including acclaimed guitar maker Manuel Delgado and talented teenage drummer/musician Mia Morris.


“I believe science centers can be most powerful when people who come visit them can learn not only about science, engineering, technology, arts and culture, but they can also learn about the community that is hosting them. It was hugely important to me to start developing ideas that were consistent with what was going on in Nashville,” Hinkley said.  


You won’t find much text in the soundBox exhibit aside from the profiles of Nashville music industry professionals, although the text that is displayed is translated in Spanish for the first time at the museum.


But for the most part, people are meant to play, explore and interact with the space, rather than read huge blocks of information.


“We’re shifting away from trying to fill your head with a bunch of content in the two to three hours you might be here, to inspire you to be more creative and curious and have fun with things and think about science in a whole new way,” Hinkley said.


More space for exploration 


At the newly designed Innovation Incubator, which nearly tripled in size, people can learn cutting-edge technologies, maker processes and creative innovations through access to 3D printers, vinyl and laser cutters, coding stations and robotics. The space has new equipment, more programming and can now accommodate up to 30 people in certain classes, as opposed to a six person cap in the old space.


Making the museum more interactive is really at the heart of the transformation plan, which Hinkley expects will take eight to 10 years to complete. Planning for phase two of the revitalization will kick off this fall.




A decade from now, the museum will be an entirely new experience that will reach a broader audience, he said. He wants to make the museum a fun place for adults — not just children — to foster curiosity, collaboration, creativity and confidence.


For the fiscal year ending June 30, 2018, the museum reached 358,475 visitors, including 74,192 students nationwide and 11,137 Metro Nashville students.


“At a time where Nashville is emerging into a world-class city, I think one of the ways Nashville will define itself as such is through the value and importance of its cultural institutions. We’re here to build the best science center in the world for visitors of all ages, period,” Hinkley said.


Reach Lizzy Alfs at lalfs@tennessean.com or 615-726-5948 and on Twitter @lizzyalfs.


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