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DMNS 126,000-sq foot expansion: Your first look at The Morgridge Family Exploration Center

DMNS 126,000-sq foot expansion: Your first look at The Morgridge Family Exploration Center

I thought the Denver Museum of Nature and Science was already special. The variety of exhibits and programs make it one of the region’s most family-friendly destinations for fun, hands-on learning. But world-class educators, curators, and designers had a wonderful plan up their sleeves. They were going to create an innovative, beautiful, warm space for young scientists to explore with their families and schools. For a few years, we’ve watched the new wing take shape, wondering what was going on behind those construction barriers. We no longer have to wait.


On February 14, 2014, the sparkling, expansive, highly-anticipated Morgridge Family Exploration Center opens. Eager museum visitors will be treated to a welcoming place where they will find science made even more accessible. On the main floor, the 126,000 square foot expansion houses an airy atrium and learning studios. The centerpiece of the atrium is a 17×9 foot screen displaying a gorgeous kaleidoscope of images from the museum’s deep collection of artifacts. Versatility and innovation are everywhere you look. As we walked through the new wing, which now accounts for 25% of the museum’s size, it was apparent every detail was thoughtful. Open spaces, studios, and classrooms can be expanded to suit the needs of various programs. High tech touches like iPads for teachers to use, newly-developed field trip programs, projectors, and even the light-changing windows are a testament to the museum’s commitment to being on the cutting edge of learning and technology.


But they didn’t sacrifice sustainability pursuing leading-edge tools and design. The five-level expansion is on track to receive LEED Platinum certification by the U.S. Green Building Council. I know this is important for Colorado families. You can feel good about spending time in a place that’s mindful of our resources. The outdoor Nature Plaza takes advantage of the museum’s picturesque slice of City Park and Denver’s sunshine to get families to take science outdoors. We spotted foam rockets, which are generally not welcome inside.

The second floor is the future home of the Discovery Zone. Parents of small kiddos adore the existing Discovery Zone as a place for our little ones to romp in a welcoming space of their own. Imagine it bigger, brighter, more whimsical, more rompy, more stompy, more everything—it will have an indoor water feature! It doesn’t open until June 7, 2014, but hang tight. It’s going to be a very special place. Even the diaper brigade under the age of two will have their own turf to toddle and crawl around. This floor also houses a learning studio devoted to early childhood education. We spied dinosaur bone dig boxes and costumes. Sorry, parents. They do not come in our sizes.

The third/top level is the crown of the expansion. If you’ve been to any of the museum’s recent traveling exhibits, like Mythbusters, you can picture the available space before the expansion. It’s been doubled, which allows the museum to bring even more exhibits to educate and entertain. Space limitations are a thing of the past in the Anschutz Gallery. Coupled with the existing Phipps Special Exhibits Gallery, the DMNS was able to debut the new space in jaw-dropping style.


Maya: Hidden Worlds Revealed opens on February 14, 2014. It’s the largest exhibition about the Maya culture to be shown in US history—and that is solely due to the new wing. It just keeps on giving. The exhibition features ancient artifacts borrowed from other museums and many items that call Denver their home. We took a fast-forward style tour and we can’t wait to go back and see it as it was intended: An immersive, sensory experience for the whole family. The galleries are roomy and should be able to absorb curious crowds more easily.

Versatility shines again this fall. The exhibition space will split in two and feature distinctly different exhibits at the same time. This is a genius, thoughtful development because it caters to diverse interests in families and the community. Keep your calendars open for these concurrent exhibits, Whales: Giants of the Deep and Traveling the Silk Road. I was thinking, as we toured, they should have added a hotel.

The new wing has five levels. Three are open to the public. What about the other two levels? While families and schools explore the three levels above, scientists and researchers will toil, wonder, and study below at the Rocky Mountain Science Collections Center. We got to take a peek at these gleaming facilities. Housed in two basement levels, this new collections center will be a high-tech home for the museum’s 1.5 million artifacts and specimens not on display. Did you know when you tour the museum, you are seeing only 5% of what the museum curates? Currently, everything from ornate ceremonial masks to Ice Age horse skeletons are stored in the nooks and crannies of the museum’s back rooms. The expansion will allow for artifacts to be cataloged and stored together in giant rooms with miles of tracks and collapsable shelving. With specimens and artifacts at their fingertips more readily, research and preservation is more streamlined. It’s a beautiful thing.


For more information on the Denver Museum of Nature and Science’s new Morgridge Family Exploration Center, visit the DMNS website. Admission to the new expansion is included in the price of general museum admission. However, there is an additional admission fee for the Maya: Hidden Worlds Revealed exhibition.

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Author: gretchen

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  1. This expansion is a game-changer. The museum was amazing before but this puts it en par with world-class exhibits!

  2. Must get my family there.

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