Discovery Station opens doors to hands-on learning experience

April 24, 2005|by RICHARD F. BELISLE

HAGERSTOWN - There are no "Do Not Touch" signs in this museum.

If anything, people, especially children, are expected to put their hands on most of the exhibits, except maybe the snakes in the Reptile Man's exhibit of live specimens on the second floor.

Discovery Station at Hagerstown Inc., a hands-on science and history center, officially was launched Saturday in 17,000 square feet of leased space in the former Nicodemus Bank building at 101 W. Washington St.

The grand opening culminated 13 years of planning since the idea surfaced in 1992, said Dave Barnhart, assistant treasurer.

The museum is leasing the old bank building for five years, he said.

The museum's mission statement reads in part, "... an exciting learning experience to stimulate in all people, especially children, a curiosity for discovery ..."


A major route toward attaining that mission is the museum's connection with the Maryland Science Center.

The science center has more exhibits than it can display at one time, Barnhart said.

"They keep the ones they can't display in storage and we can borrow them," he said.

Most of the exhibits currently on display at Discovery Station are on loan from the science center, especially those that encourage children to puts their hands on and into them.

A lot of the exhibits will be "homegrown," in that they will be local, he said.

The Hagerstown Aviation Museum, which has been looking for a home, is planning to develop a local transportation exhibit in the station, Barnhart said.

The Hagerstown Railroad Museum also will find exhibit space at the station, as will the Washington County Historical Society.

John Davidson, board treasurer, said the museum will be funded through donations and entrance fees.

Some exhibits will be permanent, some not. Exhibits such as the live snakes brought in by the Reptile Man for Saturday's grand opening will be moving on.

"We will have static and changing exhibits," Barnhart said.

The station will have special Saturday programs for families and children. It also will encourage visits by Tri-State Area schools. School buses will have a special drop-off spot near the front entrance, Davidson said.

The museum is developing a core of volunteers to run things until a professional can be hired sometime down the road, Barnhart said.

"Right now, this is about as grass roots as you can get," he said.

B. Marie Byers, longtime former member of the Washington County School Board, is president of Discovery Station and will serve as its interim director.

"We will be growing," Byers said in welcoming remarks to patrons attending the opening.

The center promises to be a key element in the arts and entertainment district the city has been working on, Davidson said.

The station's Web site is

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