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Published: Tuesday, 12/23/2008

New exhibits at Toledo Science Center might not be ready by '09

BY ALEX M. PARKER
BLADE STAFF WRITER

New exhibits promised by officials for the Toledo Science Center, formerly known as COSI, might not be completed in time for the museum's scheduled reopening late in 2009.

Yesterday, the museum's Strategic Planning Committee discussed goals for the center, which closed in December, 2007, but was revived last month when Lucas County voters approved a 0.17-mill levy to support it.

Several local companies promised to help create and fund new exhibits, to focus on subjects such as life science and alternative energy in the hopes of reinvigorating the science center. Before the vote, museum officials unveiled conceptual drawings of interactive exhibits.

But during yesterday's meeting, Chip Hambro, a retired executive with First Solar Inc., who is now volunteering as the science center's chief executive officer, said it would be difficult to create more than one corporate-sponsored exhibit by the expected opening date of October or November, 2009.

The museum may be able to open with a new traveling ex-hibit, or with new exhibits the museum created itself, he said, adding that the museum may want to focus on other ways to promote itself on Opening Day.

"There will be new exhibits," Mr. Hambro said. "But there are other things we want to do to improve the overall experience."

Although the science center now will have a stable income stream and better ability to obtain state funding, he said, having several corporate-sponsored exhibits finished by the opening date still could be too expensive and time-consuming.

David Waterman, president of the science center board, said he was worried residents would be disappointed if the center hadn't changed when it reopens.

"We want there to be meaningful change by the time it opens," Mr. Waterman said after the meeting.

"But it's going to be a fantastic amount of work."

One thing sure to change is the museum's name, which as of Nov. 30 is no longer COSI.

The name - originally an acronym for the Center of Science and Industry - familiar to area residents for more than a decade is owned by the science center in Columbus.

While officials are using the Toledo Science Center name for now, museum leaders said they plan to use a contest to solicit area residents' ideas for a permanent name.

Submissions are to be whittled down to about 15 candidates, from which a task force would choose a winner.

Committee members said they would prefer not to use "Toledo" or another geographic reference in the name.

Museum spokesman Matt Schroder said the museum wants "children of all ages" in the area to participate, possibly through online submissions or entry forms to be distributed at local stores and groceries.

Bob Savage, of Savage and Associates, said it would be a chance to work with local teachers.

"It's a great opportunity to get a new identity," Mr. Savage said. "We want to build some excitement for what we're about."

While Mr. Schroder said leaders hope to have the contest under way by next spring, no official date has been set.

Contact Alex M. Parker at:

aparker@theblade.com

or 419-724-6107.



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