SCHENECTADY — Summer classes for children started Monday at miSci, a continuing sign of the pandemic yielding to normalcy at a museum where change is continuing in waves.
New classroom and auditorium space await arriving children, and renovations that are still underway will create additional educational space.
The long-term exhibits have given way to a regularly changing series of temporary exhibits, with a greater sense of openness on the floor and a significant hands-on educational component. The old favorites are still on-site, and will reappear in public view periodically as part of those rotating exhibits.
The interior work so far has run about $250,000, and there’s more to be done. Outside, a boardwalk connection to miSci will be part of a roughly $1 million city-county project in adjoining Vale Park.
“We’re really excited about what we’re doing,” President Gina Gould said.
Another change in the works: The official name will be changing to the Museum of Innovation and Science. (The former Schenectady Museum was renamed miSci in 2012.)
And there will be further collaboration with Clarkson University, which has its Capital Region campus almost directly across Nott Terrace from miSci.
Walking through the building Thursday, Gould pointed out some of the changes completed or underway at miSci and the Suits-Bueche Planetarium:
The gift shop has been gutted and is being converted to an art gallery and entryway for school groups. A new gift shop is being designed now. “We’ll be utilizing a lot of stuff from our collection to create cards and games,” Gould said, “because, really, the history from our collections is a national history and we think we’ll be able to sell a lot of these materials beyond our doors.”
A 5,000-square-foot exhibit hall will feature two or three nationally traveling exhibits per year. “This one is ‘Goose Bumps: The Science of Fear,’ from California Academy of Sciences,” Gould said. It is wide-ranging and heavily hands-on, and could well quicken a few pulses.
A current exhibit on the science of minigolf sits in another open gallery that will be dedicated to the late philanthropist Jane Golub. “We are using her bequest to establish a permanently evolving exhibition in here that melds mathematics, engineering, design and music, highly interactive, and that will open in January,” Gould said.
Air conditioning has been installed in the classrooms that were not equipped with it in the original 1967 construction.
MiSci had to shut down not once but twice during the pandemic, providing an opportunity for some of the more significant renovations to begin without interfering with visitors.
It emerged from the closures with new traction: There was a 600% jump in social media traffic during the height of the pandemic. Midweek visits in summer are now running at 60 to 100 a day, significantly more than before the pandemic.
In its archives and warehouse, miSci retains numerous pieces of the city’s heritage both personal and technological, from prototype electric appliances to ledgers full of signatures maintained by long-gone downtown banks.
And as these things slip from living memory, miSci retains the mission of sharing all this with new generations of children.
“[The collections] really record the technological innovation of the 20th century,” Gould said “It happened here in Schenectady and it spread out to the world.
“The interesting thing about the collections is that they tell these stories that everyone can relate to,” she added. “Part of the goal is to make sure kids understand history and its impact on the world.”