History of The Discovery Museum and Planetarium

The Museum was founded in 1958 and opened to the public in 1962 as The Museum of Art Science and Industry. “M.A.S.I.” was the only non-historical, multi-disciplinary museum in the Greater Bridgeport area. Early exhibits ranged from the natural and physical sciences to decorative and fine arts.

In 1985, recognizing the regional movement from industry to technology that occurred in the 70’s and 80’s, the museum’s Board of Trustees redefined the mission of the Museum to focus on two distinct areas: Science and Art. A master plan was developed which included the renovation of the facility, installation of interactive science exhibits, and improved gallery space.

Exhibits moved away from natural science, expanded in the physical sciences, and added technology. In direct response to the pleas of educators who expressed the need for assistance in teaching the physical sciences, the museum developed a science curriculum that met the standards of the CT State Department of Education.

In 1990 MASI became The Discovery Museum, reflecting a commitment to “hands-on” experiences and participatory education. In 1991 with the help of area corporations and the State of Connecticut, the
Challenger Learning Center was installed as the only center of its kind within New England and the 6th nationwide.

In 2000 the museum’s strategic plan called for a focus on science & technology. In 2001, the Board of Trustees further focused the institution’s efforts on science and technology by adopting the current mission: “to educate, excite, and engage visitors in the exploration of science, technology, and ideas through interactive experiences that promote new insights.”

In December of 2001, the museum established the practice of hosting traveling, hands-on science exhibitions three times a year.

In 2004 Governor John Rowland announced substantial funding for The Discovery Museum as part of the state’s continued focus on advancing math and science education.

In September 2009 ground was broken adjacent to the museum for a regional science magnet school which will share the name “Discovery”. It is scheduled to open in January of 2011. The Discovery Magnet School will collaborate with museum educators and Sacred Heart University to teach students, utilizing the hands-on scientific method long embraced by the museum. The school is expected to become a national model.

Visiting Exhibits in the main level galleries continue to incorporate engaging, hands-on, interactive science experiences. The museum’s educational programs remain focused on the physical sciences and space science and reach more than 40,000 students each year. The Museum’s lower level is now a Space Gallery and includes a permanent live feed exhibit from the Space Telescope Institute. The Henry B. duPont III Planetarium presents entertaining and educational, full-dome, digital planetarium shows in addition to traditional star shows. A Green Energy exhibit on the Museum’s upper level and plans for a scale model Solar System Trail to open in the spring in the woods behind the museum, extend science education to include good stewardship of our planet.

The Discovery Museum and Planetarium – History and Timeline

  • 1936: Our roots go back to Oct 31, 1936, when 40 women, headed by Mrs. Henry D. Bradley, began planning for a children’s museum of American history, travel, art, industry, science and nature for Bridgeport.
  • 1937: The museum opened in Bridgeport’s Black Rock Library basement.
  • 1950: Activities were moved to Bridgeport’s North End Library basement.
  • 1952: Wonder Workshop was created using “experimental” educational techniques: interdisciplinary teaching!
  • 1958: The Junior League of Eastern Fairfield County founded the Museum of Arts, Science & Industry (MASI) to create a permanent facility. Bridgeport area industrial leaders, headed by William Simpson, played significant roles in the development and construction of the museum, which was the only non-historical museum in the greater Bridgeport area. 10 acres of “90 Acres Park” on Park Avenue were leased from the city for 100 years.
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