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What Is the McWane Science Center?

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  • Written By: Andrew Kirmayer
  • Edited By: Shereen Skola
  • Last Modified Date: 03 September 2016
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The McWane Science Center is a museum located in Birmingham, Alabama, USA. Opened in 11 July 1998 as part of a downtown revitalization project, the museum initially consisted of 180,000 square feet (about 16,723 square meters) of space. Plans for expansion in 2005 were aided by donations. Exhibits at the museum have focused generally on local paleontology, education, space exploration, and aquatic life. The facility was built when two small science centers merged and took over the space of a department store.

A local center called the Red Mountain Museum, and Discovery Place, a science education business, merged to create the McWane Science Center. Donations from a family owned corporation were mostly used to build what, as of 2011, may become one of the largest science museums in the United States. The building includes several prehistoric exhibits, including one with a predatory whale and a collection of dinosaur fossils. General exhibits also include precious minerals as well as a variety of Native American artifacts.

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The McWane Science Center has also been known for its water exhibit with many types of marine and freshwater animals. Additionally, there is a dedication to the Space Shuttle Challenger and its crew, which were lost in 1986. There is also large theater in the museum and usually interactive science attractions that show how to build a roller coaster. A children’s exhibit depicts a house from the perspective of a mouse by using oversized items. Visitors can also learn about an underwater research lab at the museum.

After the McWane Science Center was built, many people believe it contributed to the revitalization of downtown Birmingham. The urban renewal included the construction of a couple of office buildings. About nine weeks after it opened, the museum reported that it earned $1 million US dollars (USD) and as of 2007, about a half million people typically visited the center every year.

The facility is managed by a Board of Trustees, which oversees the policies of the McWane Science Center. It generally covers the demand of museums and kids because there are many exhibits to explore science by touch and sound. The museum is named for the McWane family, which is known for its water and sewer pipe manufacturing company and its philanthropic donations. Some of these were used to fund the center’s construction, and the facility is operated by both employees and volunteers who assist visitors and run educational programs.

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