The mission of the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery is to be the premier regional provider of interactive science learning experiences which enrich the lives of children and adults, enhance the quality of life in our community, and promote a broad understanding of the world. To preserve, protect, and enhance the Museum's anthropology, geology, paleontology, and biology collections, and to make these collections available for exhibition, education, and research purposes.
Our Vision is to be the premier regional provider of interactive learning experiences which enrich the lives of children of all ages, enhance the quality of life in our community, and promote deeper understanding of the world.
The Dayton Museum of Natural History began in 1893 as a part of the Dayton Public Library and Museum. Over the years, collections gathered by prominent Dayton citizens on their trips around the world were contributed to the museum. Local natural history collections were also contributed. In 1952, a group of citizens organized the Dayton Society of Natural History which took responsibility for the collections and transformed them into the Dayton Museum of Natural History. In 1958, the Museum of Natural History's main building on Ridge Avenue was completed. In 1991, a new planetarium and expanded collection and exhibit space were added. The Society remained committed to the ideal of inspiring children to enthusiastically embrace science as a vital aspect of their lives through exhibits and programs that were both entertaining and educational.
Meanwhile, in 1993 a group of interested community leaders formed a steering committee to explore the idea of creating the Children's Museum of Dayton. This group believed that a children's museum could reach children ages two through twelve and instill in them a lifelong love of learning as well as an appreciation for the world around them. To this end, the group formed a governing board, launched a mobile outreach program, displayed model exhibits, and began planning for a permanent home in downtown Dayton.
As the Children's Museum movement gained visibility, the similarity between its philosophy and the Museum of Natural History's mission became very clear. In the summer of 1995, the Children's Museum Board and Board of the Dayton Society of Natural History began discussing ways to collaborate. By January, 1996, these talks resulted in an enthusiastic agreement to fully merge boards under the umbrella of the Dayton Society of Natural History *. As a result of the merger, the Dayton Museum of Discovery was born and assumed all public, educational and programming functions previously associated with the Dayton Museum of Natural History.
The board commissioned a professionally-developed exhibits master plan that would take into account all of the resources and potential brought to the table by both organizations and by May 1999 Phases I and II of an extensive exhibits master plan had been completed.The name change to the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery occurred in January, 1999 in recognition of Oscar Boonshoft, one of the Museum's most dedicated friends.
* The Dayton Society of Natural History is the parent organization of the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery and its sister organization, SunWatch Indian Village – a museum of the area's 12th century Fort Ancient Indians.
The Museum is accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, affiliated with the Association of Children's Museums, and is a governing member of the Association of Science-Technology Centers. In addition, the Discovery Zoo, located on the second floor of the Museum, is fully accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.