Since the opening of the Iowa Marine Engine & Launch Works within the National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium last fall, the organization has been tirelessly working to complete the final two-thirds of what will be the John and Alice Butler River of Innovation Gallery. Named after lead donors John and Alice Butler, River of Innovation’s public grand opening will take place the weekend of June 11-13, 2021.
Building on the River Museum’s abundant historical, conservation, and science connections, the second third of River of Innovation will feature high-engagement interactive exhibits that reinforce river innovation themes as well as artifacts from the museum’s collections. Categories for the interactives include energy and motion, vehicles and cargo, tools and machines, and the changing river.
The final third of River of Innovation will house a makerspace featuring multidisciplinary projects that tie the key River Museum concepts of history, science and conservation together. As part of the exhibit opening preparations, the River Museum was able to hire an Innovation and MakerSpace Coordinator to develop curriculum and engaging projects for the space. Mari Oates joined the River Museum in February of 2021 and came most recently from the Shedd Aquarium where she served as a Learning Specialist with the Teen Learning Lab. “I was excited to take on the challenge to combine science, conservation, and history through this maker space,” said Oates of her new role. “I look forward to empowering our guests to be makers, leaders, and advocates for their communities.”
“This has been a passion project of ours for the last eight years,” added Erin Dragotto, VP of Development and co-project lead for the exhibit. “It is exciting to see the final pieces fall into place as we prepare to open the space.”
Prior to the grand opening, the River Museum will host a small, private ribbon cutting for the space with key supporters to the project, including the Butler family. “We believe this project is a wonderful bridge between the innovations of yesterday and the science, technology, engineering and math concepts needed for the future success of today’s youth,” John and Alice Butler said of the exhibit. “We are excited that our family can help to fund a project that will both educate and entertain guests and students for years to come while supporting the cultural vibrancy of this community.”
River of Innovation will open at 9 a.m. on Friday, June 11, and is included with general admission to the River Museum. For the first few weeks, visitors to the makerspace should expect to participate in short, 10-to-15-minute maker space projects. Larger, more time intensive projects will be introduced over the following weeks and months. All take-home maker space projects will be offered at an additional charge. For more on the exhibit, visit call 563-557-9545.