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New River of Innovation exhibit now open at National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium

Mississippi River Museum Aquarium
The National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium

DUBUQUE, Iowa (KWWL) -- The National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium's newest exhibit, the River of Innovation, is now open to the public.

The organization has been working to complete the final two-thirds of the John and Alice Butler River of Innovation Gallery since last fall. The exhibit is named after lead donors John and Alice Butler.

"We believe this project is a wonderful bridge between the innovations of yesterday and the science, technology, engineering and math concepts needed for the future success of today’s youth," John and Alice Butler said. "We are excited that our family can help to fund a project that will both educate and entertain guests and students for years to come while supporting the cultural vibrancy of this community."

Building on the River Museum’s historical, conservation, and science connections, the second third of River of Innovation features high-engagement interactive exhibits that reinforce river innovation themes as well as artifacts from the museum’s collections. Categories for the interactives include energy and motion, vehicles and cargo, tools and machines, and the changing river.

"This has been a passion project of ours for the last eight years," Erin Dragotto, VP of Development and co-project lead for the exhibit said. "It is exciting to see the final pieces fall into place as we prepare to open the space."

The final third of River of Innovation houses a makerspace featuring multidisciplinary projects that tie the key River Museum concepts of history, science and conservation together. As part of the exhibit opening preparations, the River Museum was able to hire an Innovation and MakerSpace Coordinator to develop curriculum and engaging projects for the space.

Mari Oates joined the River Museum in February 2021 from the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago where she served as a Learning Specialist with the Teen Learning Lab.

"I was excited to take on the challenge to combine science, conservation, and history through this makerspace," Oates said. "I look forward to empowering our guests to be makers, leaders, and advocates for their communities."

River of Innovation opened at 9 a.m. Friday and is included with general admission to the River Museum. For the first few weeks, visitors to the makerspace should expect to participate in short, 10-to-15-minute projects. Larger, more time intensive projects will be introduced over the following weeks and months. All take-home makerspace projects will be offered at an additional charge. For more information on the exhibit, click here.

Trevor Oates

Executive Producer

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