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New science center key to Bishop Museum's...

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New science center will be key to Bishop Museum's growth

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A $17 million, 17,000-square-foot addition to the Bishop Museum featuring interactive exhibits found nowhere else in the world is expected to raise the museum's value as a national attraction.

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The perception of the museum locally will change dramatically, said William Brown, Bishop Museum president.

Centerpiece of the Science Adventure Center, due to open Nov. 19, will be a man-made, walk-in volcano that will erupt several times a day. The unusual $645,000 volcano exhibit will be visible from the H-1 freeway.

Half of the total cost of the center was applied to design of interactive exhibits, according to Brown, who "conservatively" predicts an additional $150,000 in annual revenue for what he describes as the nation's fourth-largest natural history museum. He hopes for grants in the same amount.

The 116-year-old museum, which has collections of 24 million cultural objects and natural history specimens, has an annual operating budget of $16 million.

Brown said he expects the addition of the Science Adventure Center to cause membership to rise about 25 percent to about 11,000 and annual attendance to reach 400,000.

But he admits that the gap between revenue and expenses the first year could be between $200,000 and $300,000. He attributes that to the expected costs of additional staffing, electricity, maintenance and other necessities associated with a new operation.

He would not speculate on how long it will take for the Science Adventure Center's revenue to close the gap on expenses.

Marketing is the key

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Brown said marketing exposure the first year will be key.

His plans include not only nationwide but international advertising because of the Science Adventure Center's unusual nature.

Brown declined to reveal how much he has budgeted for marketing the new center or what media he will use, but he acknowledged it will be a campaign unlike anything the museum has ever undertaken. He said Becker Communications Inc. will be his agency.

He said he also expects the center to draw substantial free media exposure.

This is the kind of story you'd find in the cultural section of the New York Times, he said.

Brown said the addition of the center will elevate Bishop Museum's standing among the nation's museums. He expects it to rival other interactive museums like the Exploratorium in San Francisco and the Pacific Science Center in Seattle.

But, in some respects, the Science Adventure Center will stand alone.

No other science center in the USA has state-of-the-art, extremely interactive exhibits that focus on an environmental theme, Brown said. "It's an experiment."

He said the center will have 10 major exhibits and about 20 minor exhibits found nowhere else. The 20-foot-high, 40-foot-diameter erupting volcano is the marquee exhibit.

Vendors in Hawaii, Arizona, New Jersey and Canada all had a hand in its creation. The volcano is being prepared for shipment from California to Hawaii.

This volcano is an outrageous undertaking, said Al Darrone of Maltbie Inc., one of the crater's designers. "I have never seen anything like this before."

The exhibit will look strikingly realistic.

The volcano is going to spit up what looks like hot molten rock, Brown said. "I don't think anyone has this technology."

One of the most interesting aspects of the center will be a large furnace in the volcano exhibit area in which museum staff will actually melt chunks of lava. Visitors will be able to watch staff pour out the molten rock.

Another interactive exhibit will be an underwater model of the submerged Loihi volcano off the Big Island. Visitors will be able to control remote submersibles to explore the undersea volcano.

Until a month ago, the new center was called the Science Learning Center. Brown said he realized that name didn't convey much excitement and marketing considerations led the museum to replace "learning" with "adventure."

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Source: Pacific Business News

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