History | EcoTarium

History

January 1, 1825

 Worcester Lyceum of Natural History is founded by a group of 14 men to foster an appreciation and understanding of the natural world.

April 27, 1849

Henry David Thoreau makes the first of several speaking engagements in Worcester. In the course of more than a dozen trips to the city, Thoreau found time for visits to the Natural History rooms.

1860s

Women begin to participate in the Natural History Society and play important roles in the creation of social and fund-raising activities.

1861

The Worcester Natural History Society forms.

October 1, 1867

The grand opening of the Natural History Rooms on the third floor of the Worcester Bank Block on Foster Street draws 250 people.

1884

 The Worcester Lyceum and the Natural History Department of the Young Men's Library Association combine and join the Worcester Natural History Society to become the Worcester Lyceum and Natural History Society. At that time, the museum's live animal collection included:

  • two snakes
  • two owls
  • one alligator

1885

The Natural History Camp is founded on the shores of Lake Quinsigamond, the first of its kind in the country. Open to boys ages 10-20, the camp is billed as offering, "Health, athletic sports, military drill, instruction in study of nature and careful oversight for him, freedom from anxiety for you."

1891

The museum moves to the Old Edwin Conant Mansion at the corner of State and Harvard streets.

1932

Amateur astronomers form the Aldrich Astronomical Society in Worcester, named for the late mathematician who popularized the study of the sky.

1942

The Natural History Society Training School opens on 80 acres in Paxton.

1950

The summer home of F. J. Harold Daniels on 325 acres in Rutland is donated for a school of forestry, wildlife management and conservation and is used today by the Summer Discovery Camp.

1954

Museum exhibits and the Goddard mineral collection are moved to the Morgan House on Cedar Street. Live animals, a planetarium, an auditorium and other collections are housed at the Rice House on Elm Street.

1960

The Worcester Natural History Society changes its name to the Worcester Science Museum.

1971

 A new facility, designed by renowned 20th century architect Edward Durell Stone, opens on 60 acres of donated land on Harrington Way. The name is changed to the Worcester Science Center to join the trend of science and technology centers whose commitment to public education is demonstrated through a combination of exhibits and programming.

1986

The name changes to the New England Science Center to reflect a broader audience.

1989

The museum rearticulates its mission to promote appreciation, increase knowledge and foster stewardship of New England environments.

December 1, 1983

 Polar bears Ursa Minor and Ursa Major give birth to Kenda, the first polar bear to be born and raised in New England.

1998

 The museum adopts the name EcoTarium and breaks ground for the first phase of an $18 million expansion and renovation program.

1999

 EcoTarium opens several new attractions, including the first Tree Canopy Walkway in the nation to open to the public. Also:

  • a river otter habitat
  • bald eagle and snowy owl aviaries
  • nature trails
  • pond pier and pavilion
  • new Museum Store

2000

EcoTarium unveils a new three-story glass wall, the Hirsh Telecommunications Center and classroom wing, a landscaped terrace and Food Pavilion, and new exhibits related to water.

2007

The Alden Planetarium is upgraded with state-of-the-art digital technology making it the only publicly accessible digital planetarium in the state.

2008

Kenda celebrates her 25th birthday making her the oldest living polar bear born in captivity. Also this year, polar bears are named the first threatened species due to global warming.

2009

The EcoTarium launches The Third Century Plan, a multi-year fundraising effort that is focused on enhancing experiences for museum visitors into the institution's third century of operation.

EcoTarium adopts a new logo to reflect the energy and excitement of visiting the EcoTarium.

2011

Kenda the polar bear dies at the age of 27.

The Arctic Next Door: Mount Washington exhibit opens on the museum's Upper Level. The exhibit transforms the museum entrance, adding an engaging, interactive exhibit experience focused around New England weather and geology. It is the first of several guest experience enhancements planned as part of the EcoTarium's Third Century Plan.

2012

The EcoTarium becomes an associate member of the Association of Children's Museums.

Joe Cox becomes president of the EcoTarium.

DinoTracks opens, an exhibit produced by the Environmental Exhibit Collaborative, a group of mid-sized natural science and children’s museums organized by the EcoTarium.

2013

The EcoTarium creates two new outdoor places to play, with the Imagination Playground on the Lower Courtyard and the Play on the Plaza exhibit on the Sundial Plaza, featuring the popular Bubbles! exhibit, a Tube-A-Phone musical sculpture, and space for temporary exhibits to be prototyped.

The EcoTarium partners with the Worcester Think Tank to create Think Tank at the EcoTarium (TTE) classes, to provide students with an engaging, interesting and effective program for enhancing education while learning to work with peers in a nurturing and supervised environment.

2014

The EcoTarium becomes the official Museum Outreach Partner of PBS Kids' "Plum Landing" produced by WGBH Boston.

The Nature Explore Outdoor Exhibit, a certified Nature Explore® Classroom, becomes the newest permanent exhibit at the EcoTarium. The interactive outdoor exhibit features several play areas designed to connect families to nature.

The EcoTarium becomes a Museum Partner of National Geographic (the first in New England!) and the Alden Digital Planetarium is re-named the Alden Digital Planetarium: A National Geographic Theater.