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Michigan Science Center History

In the summer of 1970, a storefront at E. Forest was leased, renovated and used as a space to pilot a new science museum. During this period, the architectural firm of William Kessler & Associates was commissioned to develop plans and preliminary designs for a more permanent science center consisting of a half-million square feet to be located on 7-1/2 acres of land bounded by Warren on the south, John R on the west, Farnsworth on the north and Brush on the east.

For the next eight years, the storefront operation provided opportunities for inner city youth and others to engage in the unique experience of building science-based exhibits and participating in science demonstrations. Over time, hired staff developed the skills required to run the day-to-day operations of a science center. This allowed the storefront center to better serve the general public. It was toured by thousands of students and teachers from public and private schools.

On January 23, 1976, ground breaking occurred for a 45,000-square-foot building. This unique structure consisted of three levels: ground, plaza and exhibit hall. An outstanding feature was the IMAX® Dome Theatre with a 67.5 foot dome. The dome was designed as a tilted hemisphere where large format 15/70mm IMAX® films would be projected over most of its surface. When the completed Detroit Science Center opened in 1978, the IMAX® Dome Theatre was only the third dome and eighth giant screen theater in the world. Today the IMAX® Dome Theatre remains the sixth oldest in operation. Plans to transform the Science Center into a leading institution for science education began in late 1998.

In December 1999, the Center broke ground for a $30 million expansion and renovation of the original permanent building. The new Detroit Science Center reopened in July of 2001 as the centerpiece of the Detroit 300 festivities. The building grew to more than 110,000 square feet, and housed a variety of new exciting exhibits including a Science Stage and a Sparks Theater, where live shows are presented. A new Dassault Systèmes Planetarium opened slightly later in December of 2001.

In September of 2008, the IMAX® Dome Theatre was renovated and renamed in honor of a million dollar donation from Chrysler. In March of 2009, the Toyota Engineering 4D Theater brought a 166-moving seat experience to the Center’s visitors. In the fall of that same year, the Thompson Foundation funded a new four story 80,000+ square foot building attached to the Center. The building provided a new main entrance, store, group space, and the 480 student University Prep Science and Math Charter School. Unfortunately, a financial crisis forced the closure of the Detroit Science Center in September of 2011.

In the spring of 2012 a group of philanthropic community leaders worked together to found a new nonprofit called the Michigan Science Center, or MiSci. This organization purchased the former Detroit Science Center facility and reopened the museum. MiSci hosted (Human) Bodies shortly after opening in early 2013.

In 2014, the organization hosted a history of Rock’n’Roll exhibit. Stingray Cove, a live butterfly exhibit, and Robot Lab were in-house exhibits produced 2012-2015. A Dinosaur Named Sue was hosted in 2016. The Toyota Engineering 4D Theater was renovated in 2017. An invention-themed Smithsonian Spark!Lab opened in 2017 as well. A traveling special exhibition 1001 Inventions was presented in 2018. And the partnership with MiSci, Michigan State University, and Science Gallery Detroit produced the exhibition Depth 2019.

We are here for you.

As we progress forward, together as a community, MiSci reminds everyone to continue practicing everyday preventive actions to help avoid illness. Learn more about what MiSci is doing to guests and employees safe.

In an effort to bring something new and immersive to you every day during this time, we have switched to a virtual presence as we work to safely open up the building for you, our MiSci family. Check out our ECHO Live program weekdays at 2:30 p.m. on our Facebook Page.