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Museum of Science and Curiosity opens in disused Sacramento power station

Sacramento’s Museum of Science and Curiosity has refurbished a 1912 power station. Dryefuss + Blackford Architects

It has been 16 years in the making but finally the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) Museum of Science and Curiosity, or Mosac for short, opened this month in a former power station on the banks of the Sacramento River.

Mosac – formerly known as the Powerhouse Science Center – is an adaptive reuse of the historic 1912 PG&E Power Station, which sat vacant for 60 years.

The project is a great example of the recycling of a building, reducing the carbon emission of a complete new build, and has paired the power station with Northern California’s most advanced planetarium.

The mission

The Museum of Science and Curiosity with its newly built planetarium to the right. Dryefuss + Blackford Architects

Its mission is to serve as a dynamic regional hub that engages and inspires people of all ages to explore the wonders, possibilities and responsibilities of science.

“One of our major directives is to bring K-12 schools, colleges, universities, libraries, museums and other community resources together to remove barriers and build a Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math (STEAM) learning ecosystem that broadens and enriches each learner’s personal journey, with the ultimate goal of inspiring more students to enter STEAM careers,” the museum said.

Before becoming the region’s newest hub for science education and exploration, the historic structure had to undergo stabilisation and rehabilitation.

The building received a complete structural retrofit to create flexible exhibition spaces. A new two-story, 22,000sq ft addition was built on the side of the existing building containing an entry lobby, classrooms, offices, a café and a 120-seat planetarium prominently on display with a zinc-clad dome.

The galleries

The Destination Space exhibition gives visitors the opportunity to pilot a Mars rover

Now its galleries bring the latest findings in bio-engineering, medical technologies, and investigative science underway in the Sacramento region including a prototype of the EXPLORER Total-Body Scanner, developed at UC Davis.

They investigate California’s water shortages through the Water Challenge  interactive exhibition and the Multiverse Theatre aims to be a ‘portal to the Universe’ with a 46-foot, full-dome auditorium equipped with six 4K projectors and Dolby Digital surround sound for an immersive experience.

Further exhibition space is complete with Destination Space where visitors can pilot a Mars rover and test out rockets while on the bridge of the International Space Station.

Mosac and also created a Design Lab with 3D printers, laser cutting machines, circuit boards and robotics.

The vision

The vision for the museum came from the late Dr Evangeline Higginbotham, executive director of the city’s Discovery Museums, who believed the building could be transformed into a multipurpose science museum committed to informal science education and experience.

In 2005, the board of directors and the staff of the Powerhouse teamed up with preservation architects, construction managers, engineers and other experts to develop a comprehensive plan for the adaptive reuse of the historic power station and bring it back to life.

This led to a public-private partnership between the Powerhouse Science Center, the City of Sacramento, the Sacramento County Office of Education, the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) and a range of corporate partners and individual donors.

About the author – Adrian Murphy

Adrian is the Editor of MuseumNext and has 20 years’ experience as a journalist, half of which has been writing for the cultural sector.

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