Discovery Park of America

Union City, Tennessee

Project Size: 55,000 square feet
Designers: Thinc Design

An Interactive Museum of Everything

Designed with the local community in mind, Discovery Park fulfills an ambitious and philanthropic vision to bring education and entertainment to rural Tennessee with a one-of-a-kind facility. The Discovery Parks features a range of exhibits from natural history to scientific discovery to kid-friendly interactives, united in one space with a sense of artistry and playfulness. The 100,000-square-foot building showcases numerous galleries including: Children’s Exploration, Energy, Enlightenment, Military, Native Americans, Natural History, Regional History, Science/Space/Technology, and Transportation. Diverse exhibits include:

  • the single largest collection of Native American stone tools and lithic points
  • an authentic wooly mammoth skeleton
  • a collection of vintage American automobiles
  • a working replica of the Gutenberg printing press
  • an interactive starship theater
  • an earthquake simulator with 270-degree viewing experience
  • a 20-foot model of a generator
  • a theater simulation of the 1811-12 earthquakes that shaped the regional landscape
  • a 20,000-gallon aquarium revealing the underwater life of Reelfoot Lake
  • a 60-foot replica human body with a 30-foot slide

Since it was opened to the public, the Discovery Park has become a destination for local and out-of-state visitors, offering a Smithsonian-like museum experience in the Deep South.

Complex Coordination

kubik maltbie played an integral role in the project from an early stage, managing the entire exhibition fit-out including fabrication and installation, monitoring and maintaining budget and schedules, and coordinating all architectural and exhibition design. kubik maltbie also managed the integration of all exhibits and artifacts into the base-building and oversaw twenty-two separate subcontractors as well as numerous suppliers and specialty vendors. The impressive two-story 65-foot “human” slide, accessed on the third floor Children’s Exploration zone spiraling down to the discovery center’s second level, required considerable structural support to install and secure and was made possible through close coordination with the architect and with the general contractor early in the architectural design phase. Similarly, a 20,000-gallon aquarium tank replicating the underwater life found at nearby Reelfoot Lake, had to be fabricated early and installed in the discovery center prior to raising the walls.

The Children’s Exploration zone and hands-on interactive elements throughout the museum necessitated the use of durable and safe materials that would hold up under heavy visitor use and not show wear and tear. A diverse scope of work included Pre-Construction Services, built shop drawings, fabrication of exhibitry, casework, project coordination, artifact mounting, dioramas, graphics, lighting, interactives, audiovisual hardware, media shipping, and installation on-site. At the heart of the Discovery Park design are the local people and histories of Obion County; specialty services included recording oral histories from local community members that were incorporating into regional Tennessee history exhibits. Realizing the vision of this complex project required thoughtful coordination between all partners in a turn-key design and fabrication process.

“Discovery Park is so pleased with our experience that we have already discussed contacting with them again for a new exhibit.”

Polly Brasher

Discovery Park of America