By Sally Rummel
Looking for a cool place for your family to spend a warm summer day? Look no further than the Sloan Museum, Genesee County’s premier science and history resource, now reopened to the public as of July 8.
With its temporary location at Courtland Center Mall in Burton, the museum had been closed since mid-March because of the coronavirus pandemic. The Sloan Museum’s permanent home at the Flint Cultural Center is closed for renovation and expansion.
Now the public is re-invited to explore this Flint area landmark, with new hours and procedures at the Courtland Center Mall to make it safe for everyone.
One of the main draws to the Sloan Museum is its unique connection to cars and the history of the automotive industry in Flint. The museum’s collection totals 100 vehicles, acquired through gifts and occasional purchases made possible by the Sloan Museum Auto Fair, its largest fundraiser.
Dozens of cars are currently on display, dating back from the early years of the “horseless carriage” in 1905 to Chevrolet’s Chevette, the best-selling small car in the U.S. from 1979 to 1980. Concept cars are also included in this unique collection.
“Parents love to show the Chevette to their kids,” said Catie O’Niell, Sloan Museum marketing director. “It’s a perfect example of what was going on in auto history at the time, from gas rationing to the move toward smaller vehicles.”
In addition to the classic car collection, these traveling exhibits are on display at Courtland Center Mall through Sept. 13:
* Extreme Deep: Mission to the Abyss. Bringing the ocean floor to the surface, visitors may investigate newly-discovered life forms, thermal vents, deep-sea research submersibles, and shipwrecks like the Titanic in this hands-on adventure. Explore the ocean floor as you fly a remotely-operated vehicle and use a robotic vehicle and a robotic arm to pick up lava rocks and clams.
* Roll, Drop Bounce is an active learning laboratory that teaches physics principles through hands-on play. Kids can explore potential and kinetic energy while racing cars and catapulting balls, and experiment with friction while hula-hooping and playing with an air table and puck. Discover the power of momentum as you test out Newton’s Cradle. This totally kinetic experience appeals to continuously bouncing kids of all ages.
The Sloan Museum’s biggest event of the year also happens to be a blast for car lovers and car owners. The Sloan Museum Auto Fair at Shea Automotive, on the corner of Linden and Corunna roads in Flint, will have upcoming shows on Thursdays, Aug. 20 and Sept. 17.
Vehicles will be parked in every other parking space to ensure social distancing. Guests can enjoy food trucks and dessert wagons while DJ Scott Kuhl spins the hits. Vote for your favorite vehicle with Fan Favorite Awards for first, second and third place. A $5 fee will be charged for each cruise-in, which helps Sloan Museum maintain, purchase and restore vehicles. These car shows are sponsored by Shea Automotive Group and HAP (Health Alliance Plan of Michigan).
While the 2020 events at the Sloan Museum are exciting, just wait for the Grand Re-Opening of the Sloan Museum of Discovery at its permanent Flint Cultural Center location, “sometime late in 2021,” McNeill said.
“It will be a complete re-imagining of history and science exhibits, more family-focused and presenting an inclusive story of the history of Flint,” O’Neill added.
As part of the $26-million expansion, the Sloan Museum of Discovery will include an education work room and education learning labs, plus new exhibit galleries dedicated to science, early childhood, history and vehicles.
The Early Childhood Gallery will be a child-sized community where young guests can explore, play and learn in miniature-sized homes, gardens and garages, as well as an ambulance and hospital.
Discovery Hall will include a number of interactive experiences and exhibits, including a multi-story Spaceship Earth climbing exhibit, the Maker Lab, water exhibits, tables and more.
The Vehicle City Gallery will boast part of the museum’s vehicle collection and future automotive technology. Rotating exhibits will tell the history and future of cars. A re-designed History Gallery will include immersive and interactive exhibits, objects and stories depicting the history of Flint and Genesee County.
“Before, this gallery was a focus of major figures in the automotive industry,” O’Neill said. “Now it will be about the workers, families and diverse ethnic groups and immigrants that built this city.”
Here’s what to expect when you visit the re-opened Sloan Museum at Courtland Center Mall:
- Wear your mask: Adults, children ages 2+, and staff must wear masks that cover the nose and mouth to enter. Masks are available at the ticket counter for $1 each.
- Buy tickets in advance: Timed entry tickets for a two-hour visit will ensure social distancing at less than 20% capacity. Order online tickets for easy reservations. You may also pay cash at the door, but tickets may sell out. Genesee County residents pay only $3 per person and receive free general admission to the historic vehicles exhibit and educator-led activities. Show your driver’s license or ID with an address to confirm your residency.
- Hours: Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 12 to 2 p.m. and from 3 to 5 p.m. (closed Monday-Tuesday). The hour of 2 to 3 p.m. will be used for cleaning and sanitizing.
- Play safe: Hand sanitizer is available. Family play area is currently closed until it is state-mandated for re-opening. Be ready to present your receipt on your mobile device or print your ticket. Staff will request your email address for contact tracing purposes. If you are sick, please stay home until you feel better.
- Virtual learning: If you prefer virtual visits to the Sloan Museum during this time, go to Facebook for more than 50 videos of hands-on science activities and backyard astronomy tips to try at home. First Fridays and Second Saturday Trivia Nights continue on Longway Planetarium’s Facebook Live.
Courtesy of SloanLongway.org