SNOW HILL – While the exhibits are still being installed and will not be open to the public for weeks, the Delmarva Discovery Center in Pocomoke City opened its museum store last night.
“We expect the museum to open in August full time,” said Barbara Tull, chairman of the Discovery Center Board. “By the end of July, maybe.”
Discovery Center Director Brian Garrett confirmed, saying, “I hope to open mid-summer. My goal is, as soon as possible.”
The Discovery Center museum store will give shoppers a glimpse of the museum before it opens.
“It will allow people a chance to get into the building to get a taste of what we’re doing,” Tull said.
The Delmarva Discovery Center, on Market St., will celebrate local watershed heritage, from natural resources to culture.
Revenue from the museum store will help defray the center’s operating expenses.
“We hope people will be inspired to buy something when they come because the proceeds of the museum store will help keep the place open,” Tull said.
“It let’s us hopefully generate a little cash flow and brand the building, and connect to the community,” said Garrett.
The center staff is also working on a capital campaign to harness community, business and individual support.
The store will also serve as an art gallery, displaying paintings and sculptures by local artists. This week, the museum store will show over 50 artworks that competed to be chosen as the souvenir symbol of the Discovery Center. The winner of that competition was announced last night after this paper went to press.
“We have a lot of museum quality books and toys as well as the souvenir things,” Tull said. “We hope that people will make it their place to shop when they need a gift.”
The retail operation will offer a variety of items, especially educational books and toys, as well as original jewelry, T shirts, keychains, and even butterfly gardens, said Tull, the operator of the 2,500-square-foot museum store.
“You want everyone to take a little piece of their experience in the museum home with them,” Tull said.
The store will also operate as an information desk and will highlight other events and destinations in Pocomoke City.
The open store is just the first element of the Discovery Center to be available to the public this simmer.
“The capital parts are moving to completion. We’re working to open the doors,” said Garrett.
County Commissioner Bobby Cowger said the progress has been impressive.
“They’re really moving along on those exhibits,” Cowger said.
The $3.5 million Delmarva Discovery Center project was first conceived about 10 years ago and has progressed in fits and starts, at least to the public eye, but opening day is getting closer all the time. Work that still needs to be done includes the steamship exhibit and the graphics to be installed beginning in June.
“We’re working on it as quickly as possible,” said Garrett.
The steamship will be one of the flagship attractions of the Discovery Center. The exhibit, to be built around a brick wall, will be 40 feet long on one side and 60 feet long on the other, said Garrett, and while it will not be a full-sized replica of the entire vessel, the decks, stateroom, salon and pilot house will be full sized.
“It’s a lot of museum magic that’s happening in that one,” Garrett said.
The Discovery Center will also include a Native American exhibit, recreational sailing boat exhibit and boatbuilding workshop.
A touch tank feature will showcase native aquatic life that can be handled safely. The tank will begin in a pine forest, like the area around the Pocomoke River in Snow Hill, progress to a cypress forest, as seen south of that town, and fade into a salt marsh, like the mouth of the river as it meets (Chesapeake Bay).
One major feature of the Discovery Center will have to wait for more funding, according to Garrett.
The 8,000-gallon deepwater aquarium will hold seven feet of water and offer a 13-foot wide span of acrylic to give visitors a view of the Pocomoke River from a fish’s perspective.
“It’s going to be stunning,” said Garrett.
The deepwater tank will be costly, in part because two other tanks, not quite as large, must be installed behind the scenes as quarantine and holding tanks for new or sick aquarium creatures.
“To build the one tank we have to have three,” he said.
The Discovery Center will not install the tanks, Garrett said, until the bill for the new exhibit can be paid. While funding is in place for the other work being done on the museum, the board has not raised the dollars needed for the tank and it will have to wait.
Projects have been scaled to the budget, Garrett said, and he and the Board of Directors do not want to burden the Delmarva Discovery Center with debt to start out.
Meanwhile, Garrett and Tull hope the museum store will be a window into the Discovery Center before it opens.
“It allow us to bring people in the building and generate some excitement,” Garrett said.