For the past several months, Thinc Design has been working on a unique community-based project: the Discovery Park of America. This multi-million dollar education-entertainment-tourism attraction is a cooperative endeavor that includes a broad spectrum of participation by the people of Union City and Obion and surrounding counties in western Tennessee.
As such, this project is an extraordinarily ambitious version of an emerging form—a cultural and tourist destination, fueled by the passion of local citizens. Thinc is designing the exhibitions for the centerpiece of the project, the Discovery Center, a 70, 000 sq. ft. museum, as well as developing interpretive continuity for the 50-acre property.
Thinc and its founder, Tom Hennes, were attracted to the complexity of the project. “In many ways, working on Discovery Park is one of the most engaging projects we’re involved with, ” says Hennes. He continued, “The fact that hundreds of dedicated people from this community are involved reflects an enthusiasm here that is infectious. There is a great diversity of expertise and perspective here, from interested lay people to scientists who have spent a lifetime studying the region. Forging a new representation of the world, informed by so many different perspectives, gives this new institution a unique character and a real strength of purpose. A can-do attitude and a willingness to pitch in also lend this the best of the American character.”
From a population of about 11, 000 in Union City, more than 250 people have volunteered to become involved in the conceptualization of the museum, and more than 14 committees have formed to ensure that the overall project reflects their aspirations and the attributes of the region. These committees are augmented by regional and national expertise in subjects ranging from the history of western Tennessee to the formation of the Universe.
Exhibitions will focus on several key areas of interest, such as regional history, featuring an earthquake simulator and aquarium displaying indigenous fish; natural history, with exhibitions of fossils, bones, rocks, gems and pearls from around the world; a hands-on learning center for children; exhibits about the importance and impact of Native American culture in the area; military history, both as it pertains to the region and in conflicts around the world; transportation history; local and regional art; and a traveling exhibit area.
Discovery Park of America is primarily funded by The Robert E. and Jenny D. Kirkland Foundation. Thinc is working with a team that includes the architecture firm, Verner Johnson Museum Architects and Planners, which is leading the project, and Maltbie, which is fabricating and installing the exhibits. Construction is scheduled to begin this summer, and opening is slated for September 2012.
About Thinc Design
Founded in 1992, Thinc Design leads the field in developing and implementing extraordinary exhibitions. The firm strategizes, plans, conceptualizes, designs and builds projects that range from natural history museums, science centers, heritage museums, maritime centers and aquariums, botanical gardens, theme parks and select projects for corporate clients. With new and varied modes of engagement and interaction, Thinc strives to provide visitors with new ways of seeing the world around them, to help stimulate curiosity, awaken feelings, expand their ways of thinking, and ultimately find new meanings and live their lives more richly. Based in New York City, Thinc works throughout the United States and internationally. For more information, go to www.thincdesign.com.