Manhattan residents discuss Discovery Center feasibility

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    The Manhattan public expressed their concerns and ideas about the Flint Hills Prairie Discovery Center at an open house Tuesday evening. The Discovery Center is planned as a focal point of the South End Downtown Redevelopment Area.

    The open house was conducted by a team of nationally-recognized museum planning experts from E. Verner Johnson and Associates, Museum Insights, Gerard Hilferty and Associates and Economic Stewardship. These organizations will work with the city government of Manhattan to develop a master plan for the Discovery Center.

    Guy Hermann, who founded Museum Insights after serving as the director of museum planning for E. Verner Johnson and Associates for eight years, led the meeting.

    “We are using all the good ideas the consultant team and citizens of Manhattan are coming up with,” Hermann said. “We want to work with the whole community to find a workable solution.”

    With many Manhattan citizens voicing their concerns about the Discovery Center, Hermann said that nothing has been finalized.

    “Our goal is to come up with a facility that is sustainable,” he said. “It needs to be able to attract people from outside the city limits of Manhattan. If we find that it will not survive, then it is not too late to back out.”

    Hermann also said the project was still in its beginning stages. The building has no set exhibits, cost or design.

    Elaine Carmichael, representative of Economic Stewardship, said the center should attract people from many towns but should also make sense for Manhattan residents.

    “The Discovery Center needs about 20 percent of its visitors from out of the state of Kansas,” Carmichael said. “We are still conducting research and trying to find out if these numbers are attainable.”   

    Richard Woollacott, vice president of Hilferty and Associates, said  the Discovery Center could be completely opposite of a museum.

    “It’s a Discovery Center,” Woollacott said. “The content of the exhibits are still completely open and can be very interactive and hands on. The best facility is one that tells a good story.”  

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