miSci, Plus Museum Membership in General

I mentioned way back in August that the Schenectady Museum is now called miSci, which stands for the Museum of Science and Innovation. I finally got a chance to check out the new-and-improved science museum last week, so I thought that I’d give you a report.

If you haven’t already heard, they’ve got a Butterflies exhibition that will continue through April 7th. They plopped a butterfly habitat right there in the museum, just as you’re walking into the main exhibition space.

Butterfly habitat

The butterflies are an appealing entree into the world of science. A friend went with her bug-phobic child and they appreciated that they could look through the glass and enjoy the butterflies even though they weren’t prepared to enter the habitat for a “butterfly safari” experience. If it’s busy, there can be a bit of waiting, but helpers are there to entertain with butterfly trivia and activities. The current plan is that the butterflies will be at the museum every year, which is a lovely little antidote to winter.

Most people who know about the museum are familiar with the trains during the holidays and Suits-Bueche Planetarium. The rest of the permanent exhibition as well as their collections includes plenty of historic GE stuff. Now, with a new name and a new director, there’s a much greater emphasis on the hands-on science stuff that kids love. An example is the current exhibition, Seeing, which focus (get it? focuses?) on optical illusions and perception. One activity that’s a hit with the kids is trying to make a basket with a pair of goggles that skews your perspective. The illusions are fun and interactive, although I am tragically so sensitive that I got a little queasy after tricking my eyeballs so much! The Seeing exhibition continues through June 2nd, and then later in the summer they’ll be bringing in another hands-on exhibition.

seeing hoop game

Along with all this interactive stuff, there are still historic appliances (like the tv that’s a hulking cabinet with a screen smaller than an iPad) as well as  the wooden kitchen set that is apparently too dear in the hearts of long-time members and current toddler visitors to be moved away.

There’s a bunch of new programming as well, including a new Spark! class for preschoolers that will teach the scientific method in an appealing and developmentally appropriate way–March will be about weather–

Spark Flyer

–and programs for April break:

Spring Break Flyer

Here is where I feel compelled to say again that membership is an awesome plan. Okay, bear with me for a minute here. If you purchase a family membership at miSci, it costs $80.  When you’re members, you get free admission to the museum exhibitions as many times as you want for a full year and 4 free passes into the planetarium. For my family (2 adults, an 8-year-old, and a 10-year-old), a single visit to the museum with the planetarium show would cost $52 and a second visit without the show would cost $32, for a total of $84. So if we visit twice, the membership is a good idea, but then members get other discounts (like $20 off that Spark! series & a 10% discount off birthday parties and at the museum shop).

But it rocks even more than that because of the ASTC Passport Program. Many museums and science centers are members of the Association of Science and Technology Centers, which offers a reciprocal program that allows you to get into a bunch of other museums for free. Now, the one teensy bit of bad news is that the other places you visit have to be at least 90 miles away. CMOST ($80 for a basic membership) is also an ASTC member (so is the NY State Museum, but they’re reworking their membership program right now), membership at either miSci or CMOST will get you these fabulous reciprocal benefits when you travel out of town. So, for example, I could pay $80 for a membership at miSci and then travel to Boston and get out of paying admission for the family to the Boston Museum of Science ($82 for our family) and the Boston Children’s Museum ($56 for our family) or  check out Liberty Science Center ($58.50 for our family). If I made those visits, plus those couple of visits to miSci, I would save $200 in museum admissions!!

And now are you ready for your head to explode? Because miSci and a bunch of other New York museums (including the Albany Institute of History & Art, The Hyde Collection, and The National Museum of Dance) are part of another reciprocal program called the Empire State Reciprocal Membership Program. Free admission for everyone! I feel like Oprah giving out cars!

Do you know the best part? While you are completely saving money all over the place, the museum that you’ve joined is all grateful to you and treats you like you are doing them a favor! So you get to save money and feel fabulous about yourself at the same time!

Okay, I got off track a little. And I know that long-time readers have heard me chatting up memberships before, but I think it bears repeating.  So, just to review:

1. miSci is way more fun than the Schenectady Museum was, and

2. You should become a member (come to think of it, I think I’ve let my membership lapse, so I need to get on that).

 

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