A popular Dayton science center visited annually by 200,000 people is expanding to Springfield in an effort to better serve the region.
The Boonshoft Museum of Discovery will tentatively open a satellite museum at the Upper Valley Mall on March 9 to mark the beginning of a permanent presence in Springfield for the interactive science center.
“We’re very excited to be coming to Springfield,” said Mark Meister, president and CEO of the Dayton Society of Natural History, the museum’s parent organization.
The Boonshoft Museum of Discovery in Springfield will be located in a 4,171-square-foot space in the mall formerly occupied by PacSun.
“How cool is that?” mall manager Brenda LaBonte raved Tuesday. “Boonshoft is a name this area is well-acquainted with and has been for years.”
That name recognition likely explains the success of a retail kiosk Boonshoft had in the local mall’s center court for the first time this past holiday season.
“When we did the holiday kiosk, we came away pleased with the response we got,” Meister said.
Meister added that they also liked the atmosphere of the Upper Valley Mall, which has been hit hard in recent weeks by the closure of Old Navy, Charlotte Russe and an anchor, Elder-Beerman.
The satellite museum at the mall will be considered temporary, Meister said, while they evaluate how well it works. But, he said, the goal is to establish a permanent presence in Springfield.
About 6,000 visitors last year to the Boonshoft in Dayton were from the Springfield area, he said.
“This is the perfect match for our area,” LaBonte said.
The satellite museum will contain interactive exhibits for a family audience, along with regular programming and a small retail presence. Exhibits will change every few months, Meister said.
“It will be a mini version of what we do here at the Boonshoft,” he said.
The satellite location will have three dedicated employees, Meister said, and will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays, and from noon to 4 p.m. Sundays.
Admission will cost $2 for children and $3 for adults, with members of the Dayton Society of Natural History admitted free.
It’s not unusual, according to Meister, for children’s museums to open satellite locations in shopping malls.
“Lots of museums have actually started off in retail areas,” he said.
The Dayton Society of Natural History is well-versed in running remote locations. In addition to the 94,000-square-foot Boonshoft Museum of Discovery, it also operates two sites devoted to the region’s ancient Indian inhabitants — SunWatch Indian Village in Dayton and Fort Ancient in Oregonia.
The society operates the latter, located in Warren County, on behalf of the Ohio Historical Society.