Daily News

Springfield Science Museum Receives $750,000 in Federal Funds

SPRINGFIELD — Springfield Museums announced the receipt of a $750,000 federal earmark in support of upgrading the Springfield Science Museum.

“The funded project is called Equitable Access to the Night Sky,” said Jenny Powers, director of the Science Museum. “And it is going to be a game changer for the Museums, our community, and our region.”

The public announcement of this federal earmark underscored the united effort to secure these funds by U.S. Sens. Edward Markey and Elizabeth Warren, U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, and the Massachusetts congressional delegation. Museums staff learned about the federal earmark from Markey’s office.

“The federal funds will help us leap into the 21st century,” Powers said.

The Science Museum is already evolving at a fast pace. In 2019, the Museums added the Smithsonian Spark!Lab, a hands-on innovation space facilitated by a science educator, the only Spark!Lab in the Northeast. In 2021, the staff renovated the Seymour Planetarium, upgrading seating and refurbishing the historic star ball. Projected to open in June 2022, the International Space Station gallery will spotlight STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) learning with a series of interactive stations that mimic those in the space station orbiting our planet. All these changes are helping the Science Museum take huge strides toward the vision of being an essential, informal STEM-learning hub for this region.

As part of a three-year strategic plan, the Museums are prioritizing relevance, diversity, inclusion, equity, and access. “The Science Museum must respond to community interest. We must provide relevant opportunities that draw everyone into the new, tech-savvy, multi-dimensional world,” Powers said. “This money will help us bridge equity and access gaps. We are already a beloved institution; we will have an even greater impact as a public asset with the upgrades this money will provide.”

Plans for improvement include a full-dome, digital projection system with state-of-the-art software for the planetarium to augment the historical star ball and add multi-cultural perspectives to the night sky; digitization of the observatory to allow full access to the stars for anyone, anywhere via online projection; and tactile, multi-sensory astronomy exhibits for visitors who are blind or have low vision.

“Regional educators, students, community partners, and user experts have helped us identify flexible, essential, inclusive educational technology,” said Larissa Murray, director of Education for the Springfield Museums. “The recent upgrades to our science workshop include accommodations for students with special needs and systems for remote access. These changes are increasing our ability to impact a wider audience than ever before.”

For more than 160 years, the Science Museum has nurtured curiosity, fueled discovery, and transformed lives, said Kay Simpson, president and CEO of the Springfield Museums. “The Museums provide opportunities — joyful, exciting, and relevant opportunities. These funds will support new pathways to wonder for visitors of all ages and provide inclusive, impactful museum experiences with 21st-century technologies. Plus, our newly upgraded museum will be a dynamic driver of visitation to Western Massachusetts.”

Markey noted that “this federal funding for Massachusetts means we can initiate, strengthen, and expand community-based projects that serve our families, businesses, and cities and towns every day. These projects will spur our economy, strengthen our resiliency, expand access to important healthcare, promote clean energy and climate solutions, and help feed and house our most vulnerable in every region of our Commonwealth. I am proud that my delegation partners and I were able to secure this critical funding, and I will continue to fight for the resources Massachusetts communities need to thrive and grow.”

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