MOSH CEO speaks about expansion project at Chamber Ponte Vedra Division meeting

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Jacksonville’s Museum of Science & History is about to undergo a major transformation that will shift its focus to better fit the role of a museum in the 21st century and better accommodate increasing numbers of visitors.

Bruce J. Fafard, chief executive officer at MOSH, presented the museum’s plans Wednesday, March 17, at a virtual meeting of the Ponte Vedra Beach Division of the St. Johns County Chamber of Commerce.

The project would entail construction of a 130,000-square-foot facility on four acres of Lot X, which is located on East Bay Street and borders Hogan Creek. This would essentially move the museum from its current site on the south bank of the St. Johns River to the north bank.

If all goes well, construction on the $85 million project could begin before the end of the year. Currently, it has committed funds of $30 million. Construction would take an anticipated three to four years.

One of the factors driving the expansion is capacity. On normal years when the pandemic is not a factor, the museum sees as many as 190,000 visitors, with the number growing year over year. The most visitors MOSH has seen in a single year was 226,000.

“We’ve really outgrown our service model,” said Fafard, “both in terms of capacity and in terms of the visitor experience that we can offer.”

The new museum could accommodate up to 500,000 visitors annually.

The facility will allow MOSH to be transformed from a one-size-fits-all experience to what Fafard called “the museum of tomorrow” – something that’s more nimble, customized and open to new ideas.

It will focus on three “ecosystems,” which will overlap in some areas, weaving together science, culture and innovation.

The innovation ecosystem will focus on capturing Northeast Florida’s “entrepreneurial spirit,” according to Fafard. Experiences will look at new technology, creative problem solving and inventing.

The cultural ecosystem will explore Northeast Florida, its roots and its future identity. Art, music, dance and more will take center stage. There will be live demonstrations for cooking, music, performance and story-telling, to name a few.

The natural ecosystem will examine ecology and the natural environment, with live animals and natural history collections.

Throughout, there will be maker spaces, so that visitors can have hands-on experiences.

MOSH is already a major destination for area residents with its core, long-term exhibits regarding science and history, its smaller-scale signature exhibits that frequently focus on the humanities and larger traveling exhibits that cover a variety of topics.

It also has art exhibits, outreach exhibits and online exhibits.

Annually, it serves more than 50,000 students and allows them to participate in STEAM-based programs, which cover more than 31 Sunshine State Educational Standards in the areas of physical, applied, natural and earth-and-space sciences.

The museum was chartered in 1941 as the Jacksonville Children’s Museum and moved to its current location in 1969. In 1976, it changed its name to the Jacksonville Museum of Science and History and was rebranded in 1988 as MOSH.

In 1989, the facility was expanded to its current 74,000 square feet. Then, last November, the museum launched its Genesis project to build the new facility on the north bank.

The larger museum is expected to have a $33 million net impact in Duval County, with $13.6 million of that representing wages and salaries supporting 351 jobs. It is expected to generate about $185,000 in direct and indirect taxes for the county.

Currently, the museum is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays and noon to 5 p.m. Sundays. Hours may be increased later in the year.

For further information, go to themosh.org.

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