Backstory and Context
The EcoTarium was created in 1998 as a hands-on natural
science museum, formed from what began in 1825 as the Worcester Lyceum of
Natural History. It is an indoor-outdoor, family-friendly museum featuring
nature trails, wildlife exhibits, outdoor play areas, a planetarium, DinoTracks
exhibit, a Curator's Workshop, and much more .
In 1825, the Worcester Lyceum of Natural History was formed
as a private, non-profit institution, and was visited several times in the mid-nineteenth
century by Henry David Thoreau. It was incorporated as the Worcester Natural
History Society in 1884, later renamed the Worcester Science Center and then
the New England Science Center, and again renamed the EcoTarium in 1998. The expanded
facility comprises three floors of interactive exhibits with a focus on natural
and physical sciences, including the ecology of New England.
Permanent exhibits include African Communities; Bubbles!; Collections
at the EcoTarium; Curator's Workshop; Freshwater; Minerals; Play on the Plaza; Preschool
Discovery Area; Secrets of the Forest; and Water Planet. The Alden Digital
Planetarium offers a variety of shows (see the EcoTarium website for schedule).
The museum's collections include New England archaeology, historic archives, botany,
entomology, ethnology, herpetology, malacology, mammalogy, minerology, oology,
ornithology, paleontology, and historic technology. EcoTarium also houses a
variety of animals, most of which are rescue animals who cannot be released
back to the wild. These include bald eagles, chinchillas, scorpions, frogs,
hawks, hedgehogs, hissing cockroaches, lizards, macaws, porcupines, owls,
otters, foxes, salamanders, snakes, skunks, turkey vultures, turtles, and
opossums. With 55 acres of land, the museum's woodlands, ponds, marshlands, and
meadows also offer habitats to native wildlife, as well as room for three
nature trails, a tree canopy walkway, the Explorer Express Train, and a large
outdoor exhibit containing several themed play areas and a performance stage. Play
areas include Nature Art, Building, Sand Digging, Messy Materials, Dirt
Digging, Climbing and Crawling, Fox Den, Eagle Nest, Music and Movement, Water
Play, Invention Space, Play on the Plaza, and a large open space for outdoor
games in summer and snow fort building in winter .