Aven Stewart and Bailey Turfitt remember a lot from their youthful trips to the Science Place at Fair Park. The solar system art on the floor. Movies at the IMAX theater. The Electric Theater, with its Tesla coils and Faraday cages and lightning displays. Stewart even attended the Science Place School, a private school for kids in kindergarten and first grade.
The buildings that housed the Science Place—along with the Dallas Museum of Natural History and the Dallas Children’s Museum, all three of which merged in 2006—have sat unused for years. The Perot Museum of Nature and Science near Victory Park now carries the torch for science programming in Dallas.
But there was something special about the Science Place. Stewart credits the old museum for pushing him toward a career in software engineering. Turfitt says it helped nurture her interest in biology, which she studied at the University of North Texas. The two twentysomethings have spent much of the last two years working on a new project that is more than nostalgia. They have started the Science Place Foundation, a nonprofit that is assembling a vast archive of Science Place artifacts, recordings, and ephemera. Their goal is to honor the museum’s original mission, to “inspire innovation,” Stewart says.
“I wouldn’t say bring it back from the dead, because we don’t have any intention of creating a science museum,” he says. “But we want to create a museum for the Science Place. The goal is to help people remember it, and get people to remember what the message was. Then pass the message on by helping other children’s science museums and educational institutions deliver that message.”
The foundation is working with groups including the Dallas Municipal Archives, the Dallas Historical Society, and the Texas State Historical Association to help catalogue and preserve its growing collection. It includes videos, photos, old postcards, architectural plans, and pressed pennies.
Stewart, Turfitt, and other members of the foundation have gotten help from former museum employees as well as all those people with fond memories of field trips and weekend visits to the Science Place.
“And then a major source would be just digging up information online through manual searches. Just hours and hours and hours spent digging through the deepest parts of YouTube and Google trying to just find anytime somebody mentions the Science Place,” Stewart says.
This fall, the museum’s former vice president of exhibits sent the foundation footage from a show at the Electric Theater. “We all remembered the Electric Theater, but we couldn’t really find any photos of it,” Turfitt says. Once they figured out how to watch the pneumatic tape, recorded in the long obsolete U-matic format, they held a watch party.
“We all have this one solid memory of the Science Place. Like, ‘Oh, I remember the glowing light bulbs we could hold up,’” she says. “Seeing it made what we had done so far totally worth it.”
If you have memories, artifacts, or images from the Science Place, reach out to the Science Place Foundation online.