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Tulsa's $52 million Discovery Lab in final stretch to opening

Tulsa Children's Museum Discovery Lab
Posted at 4:11 PM, Nov 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-24 12:18:27-05

TULSA, Okla. — The excitement is building for the new Tulsa Children's Museum Discovery Lab located at 31st and Riverside Drive.

"Everybody is wanting to make sure to get this Christmas gift for the city ready to go," says Anne Mannell, Discovery Lab's Director of Organizational Development.

Discovery Lab is now in its home stretch before opening. Butch Mahaney is the Exhibits Engineer at Discovery Lab. His team develops, designs, and builds about two-thirds of the museum's interactive exhibits. That includes Math and Music, which is the first to be installed.

Discovery Lab
Tulsa's Discovery Lab is nearing completion for its grand opening.

"This has been a long time coming to get these in place," says Mahaney.

The Imaginarium is also in place. It's a theatre that provides a 360-degree immersive digital experience.

"There's nothing like this in Oklahoma," says Discovery Lab's Director of Exhibits, Lynnsey Childress-Wimp.

"The projection in the room is actually a seamless experience from the walls to the floors. So no matter where you move, something is responding to you,"

Down the hall, the first of the museum's iconic tape tunnels is being tested. They are bigger and taller than before. It takes a team of 8-14 people two hours to engineer each one. They are being built off-site at the Owen Park location.

Discovery Lab Tape Tunnel
The first of the Discovery Lab's iconic tape tunnels is being tested.

"There's actually six layers of tape in any given spot, so that equates to 500 pounds per linear foot, so that's why we say there's no height or weight limit," Childress-Wimp says.

"The structure of the tunnel isn't what fails; they just get a little dirty with all those feet going through them. We clean them every night, but they look like they need to be refreshed after a while."

The tunnels will be replaced every few months.

Just steps away, we find The Scramble. It's a sky-high oil barrel climb. "There are some really fun resting points along the way where they can have a great view of what's going on in the museum," Childress-Wimp says.

However, the Discovery Lab is about three weeks behind schedule.

"That's mainly because of the timing and materials getting on-site," Mannell says. "Supply chain issues it's happening everywhere, and we're just catching the brunt of it. And then all these good people are just trying to work around it to find solutions."

The museum is optimistic it will open to donors and members on time around Christmas. Tulsa's KKT Architects designed the building. It is three times the size of the original with three floors.

The main exhibit hall takes up most of the first floor. The second floor is home to five Tulsa Public School STEM classrooms. The top floor features an event space open for rental with stunning city views.

"Now, with the cafe, the amphitheater, the merch shop, and the Gathering Place, this really is an all-day destination," Mannell says.

Discovery Lab promises to be a gift for Tulsa and generations to come. "We do all this for the kids," Mahaney says.

If you'd like to be one of the first people through Discovery Lab's doors, the best way to do that is through a Gizmo Guild membership. You can learn more about that and Discovery Lab here.


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