Baylor Breaks Ground on Discovery Center

  • News Photo 15
    Baylor officials, donors and community volunteers broke ground on the new Discovery Center Jan. 31, 2001.
  • News Photo 17
    Sue Mayborn, chief benefactor of the Mayborn Museum Complex, was named Alumna Honoris Causa during the ceremony. She is presented her medallion by President Emeritus Herbert H. Reynolds and President Robert B. Sloan Jr.
  • News Photo 14
    Mules harnessed to a plow loosened the soil where the Jeanes Discovery Center will soon stand.
Jan. 31, 2001

Amid much applause and fanfare, Baylor broke ground on the last day of January on one of its most anticipated projects - The Harry and Anna Jeanes Discovery Center, the centerpiece of the Sue and Frank Mayborn Natural Science and Cultural History Museum Complex.

More than 400 supporters and benefactors of the new Museum Complex looked on as a pair of mules hooked to a plow loosened the soil where the 95,000-square-foot Discovery Center will stand. Actual construction will begin this summer with a projected completion date of 2003.

"This is a grand and long-awaited occasion," said Dr. Herbert H. Reynolds, president emeritus, who served as master of ceremonies at the groundbreaking. "The Jeanes Discovery Center will be a tremendous addition to the Southwest, and indeed, to the entire nation."

Located on University Parks Drive next to the Baylor Alumni Center and easily accessed to Interstate 35, the Discovery Center, literally a collection of museums, will be the heart of the Mayborn Museum Complex and will incorporate advanced technology and interactive components that will appeal to children and adults.

"The Complex will form one of the finest hands-on learning experiences for children and families throughout the Southwest," said Calvin Smith, director of the Mayborn Museum Complex and chair of Baylor's department of museum studies. "The Mayborn Museum Complex will incorporate new facilities, programs and state-of-the-art technology to rival or surpass any other natural science and cultural history experience in this region."

Here's a peek at what will be inside the Jeanes Discovery Center:

The Permanent Exhibits Gallery, emphasizing interactive learning for children and adults, this gallery will be the preeminent component of the Jeanes Discovery Center. Using a hands-on approach to learning through the use of experience modules and exploration stations, the gallery will feature exhibits in the areas of invertebrate and vertebrate paleontology, Native Americans, archeology, geology of Texas, space, rocks and minerals, and geology of Texas, among others. The gallery also will house the John K. Strecker collection, one of the oldest natural science collections west of the Mississippi River.

The Children's World (the former Ollie Mae Moen Discovery Center), a special hands-on educational experience for children and their families that encourages participatory learning within 17 Discovery Rooms that include vertebrates, invertebrates, television and weather studio, communication, experimental education, Native American, people of the world, pioneer, recycling, energy, water and bubbles, optics, health, sound, transportation and simple machines and Mrs. Moen's Neiborhood.

The SBC Discovery Theater, a 200-seat high resolution theater that will provide a stage for first-person vignettes of life in the past as well as distinguished lecturers and symposia.

The Thomas E. and Emilyne W. Anding Exhibitions Gallery, an 8,000-square-foot gallery for traveling and special exhibits. This new facility will be the only one in Central Texas large enough to accommodate such traveling exhibits as King Tut and Genghis Khan.

The AT&T Information Centers, twenty-two information kiosks throughout the building that provide supplemental interactive interpretation and distance education opportunities.

The Doug and Ellen Miller Atrium of Wildlife Art, a gallery that will present changing, world-class exhibits of wildlife sculptures, woodworking and painting.

However, the Jeanes Discovery Center is by no means the only part of the Mayborn Museum Complex. It also will encompass the Gov. Bill and Vara Daniel Historic Village, a late-19th-century riverfront community that provides a living history experience for visitors; the Environmental Experience, a nature trail that takes the walker through a biome once found abundantly in the Brazos River Basin; the Center for Museum Studies, the academic facilities and laboratories for Baylor's department of museum studies; The Waco Mammoth Site, the excavation area where 23 Columbian mammoths have be unearthed, also is considered a part of the Complex although it is located in another section of McLennan County.

Baylor officials project more than 200,000 visitors will tour the Complex each year, with another 100,000 visiting the Waco Mammoth Site, making the Complex a great economic boon for Central Texas.

"I believe it is one of the most unique projects in how it is going to help the citizens of Waco, much more than it will help Baylor," said Waco businessman Scott Salmans, who serves a chair of the Central Texas Steering Committee for the Discovery Campaign. "The reason I feel this way is that it will bring growth in our tourism and will provide educational opportunities for children and their families like no other."

Baylor President Robert B. Sloan Jr. echoed these thoughts but believes the Complex will be much more.

"When you think about the economic development that the Museum Complex will bring to Central Texas, when you think of how it will strengthen our museum studies program, but most of all when you think of the educational impact that it will mean for children and their families, then we are on the verge of seeing a project that is difficult to imagine its impact," he said.

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