MISSOULA — This week's public opening of the new Missoula Public Library is also a milestone for Missoula's homegrown science museum, the University of Montana's spectrUM.
After moving to a trio of locations the past decade, spectrUM is ready to call the second floor of the new library home for a long-time to come. Located adjacent to the children's library, it's a sweet spot ready for a phased re-opening.
“We will be open to the public during that time and we'll have somebody on staff to kind of show people through our exhibits in the water room and all the exciting new stuff that we have in the museum," says Nick Weathington, the "Making and Tinkering Programs Manager. "We also have been handing out science kits, and that's something that we'll be continuing to do in terms of putting those activities into your hands to take home and explore.”
spectrUM has always been about the all-encompassing world of science and of course hands-on science as well. And this new facility continues to fit in with that theme.
Wethington says that's been a little tough to do during the pandemic. “So we've tried to create exhibits and experiences that are hands-on, but also easy to sanitize and make safe for the public.”
The Discovery Center is full of fascination, teaching kids of all ages how the world around us, and in us, works -- with tech providing the test drive. That includes a computer simulator with various bird songs, where kids can record their own voice, and then alter it into a bird call.
Then there's the room the kids won't want to leave.
“We have a new water table that kind of plays off of our existing water table, so it's like a little bit of like the spectrUM’s past and then kind of like you know, some new exciting stuff," Wethington says, explaining it's his favorite feature. "And having it all in its own kind of contained room where kids can splash and play a little bit more, I think is they're going to really enjoy, and I think it's very exciting because I've always seen that exhibit as like it's super fun, but it's hard to splash water on the floor and then like clean it all up. But here it's just a big drain.”
But there's nowhere to go but up from spectrUM with this co-location.
“We've had some informal collaborations and some formal collaborations over the years, so we've been kind of testing out that partnership. But to be in the same space with all the librarians open and free of the public is just kind of like a big dream of spectrUM’s for a very long time.”
spectrUM didn't slow down during the pandemic, passing out more than 18,000 science kits over the past year.