30th Anniversary

The Discovery Center is celebrating its 30th Anniversary in 2017!

Did you know the Discovery House opened on March 3, 1987? Instead of celebrating for just one day, we’re in gift-giving mode all year long! On the 30th of each month, we’ll be offering an extra discount, event or promotion in honor of our 30 years. Stay tuned for more information throughout the year!

January 30: 30 free memberships to qualifying families.

February 28: Special Wine at the Wetlands ticket promotion: $30 per person (normally $35).

March: 30% discount on facility rentals booked during March for events through 12/30/17.

March 3: Celebrate the Discovery Center’s Birthday with Birthday Cake at 11:30 a.m.

March 30: Egg Hunt at 1 p.m. Find eggs and explore the museum to receive fun prizes! Included with admission

April 30: The first 30 children admitted to the museum will receive a free pack of seeds for springtime planting.

May 30: The first 30 children admitted to the museum will receive a free book for summer reading.

June 30: First 30 guests wearing red, white & blue receive half-price entry

July 30: First 30 guests receive free solar viewing glasses to view the total solar eclipse on Aug. 21

August 30: First 30 guests receive half-price entry

September 30: Enjoy 30 experiments showcasing the upcoming Tennessee STEAM Festival next month. Included with admission, free for members.

October 30: First 30 guests dressed in costume receive free admission

November 30: We are throwing it back to our 1987 admission prices! From 1 – 5 p.m. enjoy $2 admission.


Discovery Center History

A grassroots effort, led by Joe and Billie Little, began to organize a hands-on museum for Murfreesboro in late 1985. Other founders included: Doyle and Cindy Boyd, Joan and David Kellerman, Keith and Jill Shaver, Bob and Betsy Murfree, Rosalee Martin Landry, Ron and Jennifer Bombardi, Susan McDougall, and Lon and Christi Nuell. Other early supporters included: Mayor Joe B. Jackson, Bart and LeeAnne Walker, Chris and Mitzi Wyre, Donna and David Jones, Dan and Alica Austin, Bob Parks, Bubba and Betty Anne Dempsey, and George and Marimae White.


  • Discovery House chartered in 1986 as Children’s Museum Corporation of Rutherford County, a 501(c)3 hands-on museum. The Charter was prepared by Attorney George White.
  • After an extensive grassroots campaign, a building was purchased at 503 N. Maple Street and renovated with the help of workhouse labor overseen by Doyle and Cindy Boyd, Little, and others. Fueled by in-kind donations, exhibits and programs were gradually created. Hundreds of volunteers painted, cleaned, and prepared Discovery House for opening just one year later on March 3, 1987 with Billie Little serving as Executive Director. The 4,500 square foot facility hosted 11,000 in its first year.
  • Utilization grew from 11,000 in the first year to over 35,000 visitors annually, with many additional children enjoying off-site museum-to-go programs and activities at their school, local festivals, and malls. After several years, the current site was overflowing with exhibits and visitors, resulting in the need to search for a new home.
  • In 1995, the Murfreesboro Water & Sewer Plant was vacated; a site adjacent to 20 acres of wetlands. Congressman Bard Gordon, Mayor Joe Jackson, Discovery House staff, the Black Fox Wetlands League, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began to study the possible reuse of existing buildings for a museum/nature center. After several years of study, it was determined that the buildings should be demolished for environmental reasons and that a new structure should be built for the Discovery House.
  • The City of Murfreesboro agreed to lease 6½ acres of city property to the Discovery House for their use. The Board of Directors succeeded in getting several property owners to donate their property to the project, creating urban wetlands totaling 20 acres. The Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency worked with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to further study the site. U.S. Congressman Bart Gordon was instrumental in securing federal funding for the project.
  • Under the guidance of Board President George Gardner, Discovery House Board of Directors began a capital campaign in 1997 to raise 1.8 million dollars to fund the building of the new Discovery Center. The building design was prepared by architect Jim Bailey of Johnson & Bailey Architects with funding supplied by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The landscape plan was simultaneously being prepared by Lose and Associations of Nashville.
  • By the spring of 1999, exhibit planning was well underway through the efforts of a Board exhibits committee working with a variety of educations, exhibit developers, fabricators, designers, and child development specialists. J. Paul Vaughan agreed to serve as Project Manager for the building project.
  • In September of 2000, the PCA was finally signed between the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the City of Murfreesboro. A groundbreaking event was held on October 28th after which the Corps began the demolition of the Water and Sewer Building. Construction on the 18,000 square foot Discovery Center began and the Grand Opening took place on August 2, 2002 with over 4,000 people attending. The museum reached 65,000 visitors in its first year of operation.
  • Scarcely four years later, Executive Director Little was approached by members of the Christy-Houston Foundation and a donation of over $1.8 million was made to increase the space of the new Discovery Center. Simultaneously, Mr. Ed Delbridge donated his antique car and model train collections to the facility allowing us to create a new state-of-the-art transportation gallery. Major gifts were also made by the Rebecca and Jennings Jones Foundation, Nissan North America, Greg and Minh-Triet Tucker, the Institute of Museum and Library Sciences, and numerous other corporations and individuals.
  • In 2011, the annual visitation surpassed 125,000 the current strategic plans call for increased use of our natural and outdoor areas for educational exhibits as well as a renewed commitment to reach all segments of our changing community.
  • On March 10, 2012, Discovery Center celebrated its 25th birthday! In 2012, Tara MacDougall assumed leadership of the Discovery Center as the Chief Executive Officer. A strategic planning session involving staff and Board members was held to devise both long-term and short-term goals for the Center. Several new programs began in 2012 including: Birds & Brew and Science a la Cart.
  • 2013 was a year focused on expansion. All About India, the newest free day, was held and had over 1,300 guests in attendance. Afternoon programming expanded with the addition of Engineering for Kids classes and $2 Tuesdays in the summer. We also added a Youth Council. The members ages 10-16 learned about the capital budgeting process and made a recommendation to the voting Board in November. We finished 2013 121,463 visitors for the year!
  • 2015 was a year focused on growth. The Board, Advisory Board, and Staff worked together to craft new mission and vision statements that prepare Discovery Center to meet the needs of all guests. The Special Needs Council was created and a commitment to opening the Geeking Out Space (GOS) for teens and tweens was made. We applied and were accepted to the Science Alliance of Tennessee.
  • 2016 was focused on expansion in terms of our exhibit and program offerings. The Special Needs Council expanded to include sibling-related programming through Sibshops. Partnerships with schools increased through the Beat Lab program and a renewal of funds for the STEAM Bus to visit rural counties.