The Mid-America Science Museum in Hot Springs will undergo a $7.8 million renovation.

The new construction will begin in the summer of 2014 and the museum will close its doors next fall for an estimated six months. Museum officials said the doors will re-open on March 1, 2015.

Made possible by a grant from the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation in 2011, the new design will feature renovations to the building and exhibits. A major donation was also made by the Oaklawn Foundation.

“Over the last two years, the community really stepped up to help us raise the matching requirement for this grant,” said museum board chairman Lance Garner. “On behalf of the board, I would like to thank all of our donors, especially the Oaklawn Foundation, which gave us a second grant — the last amount we needed to reach that goal.”

In addition to the physical renovation, the museum will offer new and updated programming for school groups, introduce unique and engaging activities for adults, and provide teacher professional development in hands-on science education, said Diane LaFollette, executive director of Mid-America Science Museum.

Some highlights of the new facility will include:

  • The Oaklawn Foundation Digital Dome Theater, which will offer a diverse array of shows that complement the museum’s educational objectives and traveling exhibit content. The theater will seat up to 50 people and have a full-dome projection-style show that will immerse audience members with a 180-degree viewing area.
  • The Bob Wheeler Science Skywalk, sponsored by the Hot Springs Advertising and Promotion Commission. The outdoor exhibition will extend into the forest canopy from the main building.
  • Exhibits in the 5,600-square-foot Arkansas Gallery will explore the effects of erosion and weather on the state’s geology, geography, flora and fauna. It includes a refurbished “underground” cave experience, refurbished Mastodon skeleton replica and a central tree-shaped structure, that will function as a base for exhibits about soil and may also house a variety of small works by local artisans.
  • The 3,500-square-foot Forces in Motion exhibit gallery will be devoted to forces and effects of matter, energy and gravity.
  • The Inventors Workshop gallery, which will provide a major new platform for the museum to increase its emphasis on discovery learning.
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