Little Rock Look Back: Museum of Discovery opens in River Market

Museum of Discovery Logo when it opened in 1998

Founded in 1927 as the Arkansas Museum of Natural History and Antiquities in a downtown storefront, by 1997, the museum had been located in at least two other spots and had several different names.  On February 21, 1998, it reopened as the Museum of Discovery in its new location in the recently launched River Market district.  It occupied space on the first floor and basement of the Museum Center building (formerly the Terminal building the erstwhile train station which later was used for printing the Arkansas Democrat.)

The new name and new space reflected a greater emphasis on the science aspect of the museum’s mission.  It featured many hands on and interactive exhibits.

The museum spent one-third of its $10.6 million cost on exhibits.  Of the $10.2 million pledged for the museum, 47 percent — or about $4 million — came from a half-cent city sales tax approved by voters about five years ago. Another 14 percent came from foundations and 2 percent from private organizations and individuals. The remaining 37 percent came from corporations, sometimes in connection with specific exhibits.

Following a February 20, 1998, preview party, the official grand opening was held on February 21, 1998.

The previous museum space (inside the Arsenal building in MacArthur Park) occupied 14,000 square feet, 8,000 of which was display space. After the move, the museum had 35,000 square feet of display space.


1 thought on “Little Rock Look Back: Museum of Discovery opens in River Market

  1. Scott: Thank you for highlighting this special anniversary for the Museum of Discovery! The Museum has been a labor of love during all of its almost 100 years of existence. It’s move to the River Market was HUGE! That happened thanks to a visionary Board, serious donors and great leadership by its Executive Director at the time, Bill Bradshaw. Nan Selz built on Bill’s work via her tireless efforts that secured the Reynolds grant funding MOD’s makeover 10 years ago. It was such a blessing for me to work with Nan in this effort. Now we who love MOD continue to support Kelley Bass and the current Board as the Museum stimulates minds!

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