After years legal wrangling, money woes, and political infighting, downtown Miami has welcomed a new $305 million science museum.
The facility, the Philip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science, opened today with both fanfare and sighs of relief; according to an article in the New York Times, the project dragged on nearly two decades and required a financial bailout from the county due to poor fundraising.
Still, the end result appears to have been well worth all the drama. Perhaps the most notable feature is a suspended 500,000-gallon aquarium tank with sharks, devil rays, and other fish. The three-level tank has a special lens—dubbed an oculus—on the bottom through which visitors can look up and watch the fish. The experience makes the animals seem as if they’re floating in space.
Other must-see stops inside the museum include a 250-seat planetarium with projection and surround sound that exists in only 12 other facilities around the world, and exhibits about different aspects of the south Florida ecosystem.
An article in the Miami Herald noted that the new museum also will display a 13-foot-long, 55-million-year-old fossilized fish that has been restored by paleontologists.
In a pre-opening media blitz, museum officials appear to have gone out of their way to emphasize the facility’s spin on interactivity. An example: Visitors can peer into one of the aquarium tanks through a periscope-like viewfinder that gives the perspective of a shark on the hunt. Another interactive (and highly conceptual) area, named the MeLaB, enables visitors to track their own heart rates and brain waves to study health. An exhibit about the science of flight provides tools and instructions for visitors to build and launch their own air rockets.
There are other exhibits—about sight, water, solar energy, and light—and each of these attractions has interactive components as well. The museum will launch a spectacular laser light show set to popular music June 2nd.
British architect Nicholas Grimshaw designed the museum. At more than 250,000 square feet overall, it dwarfs the area’s former science museum, a tiny (and underwhelming) facility in the Coconut Grove neighborhood, about 12 minutes from downtown. The new museum is part of Miami’s Museum Park campus, adjacent to the Perez Art Museum Miami and the Adrienne Arsht Center for Performing Arts. Admission to the Philip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science is $28 for adults and $20 for kids ages 3-11.