Science center to report its best attendance ever

New exhibits, marketing credited with drawing more than 645,000 people

Public attractions

April 21, 1999|By June Arney | June Arney,SUN STAFF

The Maryland Science Center just completed its most successful year ever, boosting admissions 19 percent over last fiscal year with more than 645,000 visitors between April 1998 and March, officials will announce today.

The only other time admissions topped 600,000 was when the IMAX theater opened in 1988.

"The numbers are building because we've made investments in better programming and better advertising and marketing," said Gregory P. Andorfer, executive director and chief executive of the Maryland Science Center.

"Part of what we're trying to do in the last several years is signal change and energy. Our idea is that no matter when you come to the science center, there's going to be something new and different."

Andorfer, who has been in his job for two years, credits doubling the number of IMAX films shown annually from two to four and increasing the number of traveling exhibits from one to four a year as playing key roles in the increased admissions.

More engaging interactive exhibits also are a large factor, he said.

A former television executive producer, Andorfer was on the Titanic expedition last summer when the Discovery Channel filmed a feature on the sinking. The museum is in the process of building its own Titanic exhibit, expected to cost nearly $3 million and be completed by the summer of 2000.

When its Changing Face of Women's Health exhibit opened last month, the $3 million exhibit generated attention across the country, including notice by the Journal of the American Medical Association.

New space exhibits

The exhibit runs through August, then moves on for a nine-city tour across the country over the next five years.

Just opened last weekend is the $1 million exhibit called Outer Space Place, which features the Hubble Space Telescope National Visitor Center, showcasing the accomplishments of the telescope during its nearly 10 years of work.

Another section called SpaceLink allows visitors to participate in recent space discoveries and to do things like operate a toy Mars rover or build stuffed animal aliens.

Coming to the museum next month is Videotopia, a retrospective on the development of video games. In the fall, visitors will be able to celebrate the physics behind the sounds at Mostly Music, where they can stand inside a 14-foot-long guitar and feel the vibrations.

The museum's budget has increased by $1 million each of the past three years, Andorfer said. The current budget is about $10 million, he said.

The science center is planning a multimillion-dollar expansion that will double the existing 45,000 square feet of available exhibit space.

Details probably will not be released for at least six months.

"We're trying to stir things up a bit," Andorfer said. "It's not enough to say, `Here's a picture of what's new.' We have to turn it into something that kids and families can do."

Pub Date: 4/21/99

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