March 29, 2023
Jacksonville's Museum of Science and History's expansion plan takes advantage of location near river

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Economic Backbone - Arts & Culture

Jacksonville's Museum of Science and History's expansion plan takes advantage of location near river

Amy Martinez | 5/28/2019

MOSH’s expansion plans call for taking advantage of its location near the river.

In 1941, Jacksonville’s Museum of Science and History opened as a children’s museum in the city’s Riverside neighborhood. After moving to its current location near the south bank of the St. Johns River, the museum expanded and added programs to appeal to adults as well as children. In 2017, the museum hosted about 230,000 visitors, more than half of whom were adults without children.

In March, the museum unveiled plans for an $80-million expansion and renovation.

Dubbed MOSH 2.0, the plan includes a new planetarium, interactive learning area for children, innovation labs and co-working space, a rooftop conference center and more room for temporary exhibits such as “Bodies,” a traveling display of preserved cadavers and body parts. Several years ago, MOSH missed out on hosting the exhibit because of a lack of space.

“We’re at capacity,” says MOSH President Maria Hane. “Because of the age of the building and how it was designed, we’re limited in our ability to be innovative.”

Planning for the expansion began in 2013. After considering relocating elsewhere, MOSH decided to stay put and expand on its 15-acre site in the Southbank area.

Last year, MOSH’s leaders traveled to the West Coast, including San Francisco and Seattle, to gather ideas on how to “integrate technology, digital immersion experiences, maker spaces and hands-on learning” into the project, Hane says. Earlier this year, MOSH began raising money.

Ultimately, MOSH plans to add 43,000 square feet to its existing 77,000-sq.-ft. building, increasing its annual visitor capacity to 468,000 people.

Another key feature of the proposal is its focus on the St. Johns River. The design calls for repositioning the museum’s entrance, now off San Marco Boulevard, to face the river and feed into nearby public amenities.

The museum hopes to raise $20 million from private donors and use a combination of federal, local and state grants to pay for the rest. Construction is to begin in 2021 and finish by 2023.

“The way that people interact with museums has changed over the past 20 years, but our building and footprint have not changed,” Hane says. “There’s a need for a different kind of experience.”


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