State Museum opens one-of-a-kind facility

  • Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The South Carolina State Museum is about to be brighter than ever as it opens a one-of-a-kind facility on Saturday, Aug. 16 in the state’s capital, offering the only observatory of its kind in the nation, one of the largest planetariums in the Southeast and the only permanent 4D theater in the state. For the first time in the nation, all three of these innovative elements, plus a multidisciplinary museum focusing on art, history, natural history and science/technology, will be housed under one roof.

The long-awaited 75,000-square-foot renovation and expansion project, known as Windows to New Worlds, will position the State Museum on the cutting edge of education, particularly in the critical areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and will create a large boost in the local and statewide economy. Visitors traveling from more than 50 miles to the museum after the opening are expected to contribute more than $19 million to the state’s economy with spending on hotels, food and beverage and other travel-related activities.

The new additions include:

– Boeing Observatory: The new 2,500-square-foot observatory will play a central role in the museum’s new distance learning initiatives. For the first time in the nation, remote access of a vintage telescope will be provided free-of-charge to every classroom across an entire state. The observatory houses a fully digitized 1926 Alvan Clark 12 3/8-inch refracting telescope and fully equipped classroom.

– The Robert B. Ariail Collection of Historical Astronomy: Adjacent to the observatory is a new 6,000-square-foot telescope gallery that features an expansive collection of antique astronomical instruments dating back to 1730. This incredibly rare collection has been praised by the Antique Telescope Society as the best public collection of early American Telescopes in world. The collection includes the oldest surviving American-made observatory instrument, which is a 5.6-inch Henry Fitz made in 1849 for Erskine College in Due West, South Carolina.

– BlueCross BlueShield Planetarium: One of the largest planetariums in the Southeast, this massive 55-foot dome planetarium and theater will take guests on journeys to the deepest reaches of space through educational and entertaining astronomy shows, non-space films dealing with art, history or natural history and laser light shows set to music of the Beatles, Pink Floyd, U2 and more. A permanent NASA gallery will be located in the planetarium lobby with interactive capabilities and artifacts from South Carolina astronauts.

– Rev. Dr. Solomon Jackson, Jr. 4D Theater: The only permanent theater of its kind in South Carolina, the 4D theater couples high definition 3D digital projection films with physical features to provide multisensory, interactive experiences for guests. Physical features, including water sprayers, ankle ticklers, air blasters, scents, snow, bubble and smoke effects, strobe lights and vibrating seats, are synchronized to the images displayed on the screen.

A special grand opening celebration will take place from 9 a.m. – 7 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 16. To kick off the day, there will be a ribbon cutting and model rockets launched by students attending the Challenger Learning Center in Columbia, South Carolina. The day will be packed full of activities, including the opening of a new art exhibition, Building a Universe, which features original works focusing on space and the universe, live music representing popular South Carolina genres (bluegrass, blues, beach and gospel) and other family-friendly programming. The first 100 people will receive free general admission and other free tickets and great discounts to the museum for an entire year. The celebration will take place at the museum, located at 301 Gervais St., Columbia, South Carolina.

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