journey began in 1946 with the formation of a group called the Dallas
Academy of Medicine. The members consisted mainly of doctors and
dentists, though some of them were average citizens. Together, they
sought to provide an office building to serve as a medical college
with a library and auditorium. This plan, however, was abandoned
because it was too expensive. The organization then turned its attention
toward establishing a museum. Called the Dallas Health Museum,
it was chartered in September in time for the state fair. For the
exhibits, the local park department borrowed from other museums
and various organizations.
The museum was deemed a success with 40,000 visitors and opened
the following year as a permanent attraction at Fair
Park. However, the 10,000 square feet of space that it used
was leased from the park department. Because the founders wanted
to educate the public about health as a service, the museum was
free for everyone. This forced the management to rely upon contributions
to keep the place open. It was during this time that the exhibits
depended on borrowing from the American Museum of Health in New
Things changed for the better in 1951 when the local government
and state fair began the practice of making annual contributions.
Sometime during the mid-1950s, the museum moved to its present location.
The year of 1957 saw the institution develop the first preschool
science program in the nation. The following year, the name was
changed to the Dallas Health and Science Museum. The place
later acquired a planetarium capable of seating for sixty people.
In 1981, the park board recommended a plan to have the science museum
share space with the natural history museum as part of an endeavor
to improve Fair Park.
Both entities would be governed by a city-appointed director. Upon
hearing the news, the science museum threatened to leave the park,
but things settled down when the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts announced
it would move its collection to the downtown area. After lots of
negotiations, the majority of the museum's collection would go into
the former home of the art museum and enjoy complete independence
under a ten-year contract. The transfer was made in 1983 and the
planetarium with its surrounding exhibits was renamed Science
Near the end of its run, the museum had four main exhibits : a place
to check weight and age on the nine planets of the solar system,
a practice spacesuit, a replica of a lunar sample, and a meteorite
that landed on a Duncanville farm in 1936. A corridor leading to
the planetarium had entryways to classrooms. The planetarium itself
offered a choice of three double-features, each with a total runtime
of forty minutes. Science Place II came to a close when the Perot
Museum of Nature and Science made its big debut in 2012.
December 5, 2016
© Clint Skinner