Baltimore's mystery museum Port Discovery: Downtown children's center guards its exhibit concepts, raises big bucks.

March 29, 1997

PORT DISCOVERY, the children's entertainment and education center slated for a November 1998 opening, is Baltimore's mystery museum. Walt Disney Co., which is creating exhibits for the $29 million attraction, does not want any details to emerge so early that rivals could copy them and steal the thunder. About the only concept that seems to be known is a submarine-like boat that would shuttle visitors from Harborplace the museum's Jones Falls pier.

None of this secrecy is hurting Port Discovery's fund-raising efforts, though. In just one year, a capital campaign headed by Sylvan Learning Systems president Douglas Becker has collected $21.5 million. The latest major donation is $2 million from the MCI Foundation.

Referring to Port Discovery as "the first" high-tech, hands-on museum for children, MCI's president, Timothy F. Price, explained that "we are increasingly focusing on education technology and wanted national visibility." Moreover, certain MCI telecommunications products -- like "smart cards" -- can be used in museums to track the popularity of exhibits or individualize one's visit.

Since the inception of the Port Discovery idea, plans for the non-profit children's museum have become increasingly ambitious. The price tag has risen as well. And the exhibit space, which once was to be limited to the under-utilized Brokerage building, now also includes the Fishmarket, a mall of bars which went out of business several years ago.

The fund-raising success of Port Discovery is heartening. Its development is such a crucial anchor in an area where previous revitalization efforts have failed that it has to be a big success. With adequate funds, Baltimore could get a new world-class attraction.

Pub Date: 3/29/97

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