Coastal Discovery Museum; Exhibition Review

Mark Walhimer Exhibition Reviews, Nature Center Leave a Comment

2 of 5 Stars

Posted: August 21, 2009

Coastal Discovery Museum at Honey Horn
70 Honey Horn Drive
Hilton Head Island, South Carolina  29925

Category: Nature Center

Admission Price: $2 Suggested Donation

Size: approximately 8,000  sq. ft. of exhibits

Wheelchair Accessible: Yes

From Coastal Discovery Museum:

“Mission Statement: To develop an understanding and appreciation of the cultural heritage and natural history of the Lowcountry through exhibits, hands-on experiences, tours, and a wide range of educational programs for people of all ages.”

My Review:

I love going to museums with my niece and nephew, first because I love spending time with them and second because they are the perfect ages, 5 and 7 years old.  I have a pet peeve about museums / visitor centers that appear to have run out of money when it comes to the exhibits.  The building in beautiful, the grounds are perfect and then you get inside the building and wonder, “where’s the beef”?

The Coastal Discovery Museum is such a place, there is only one interactive station and 8 large text panels and little else.  “How can this happen?”  (rhetorical question, the answer is: “poor project management”).

At some point (usulally six month before opening), someone realizes that the museum building is under construction, the landscaping is being planted; but “what are people going to do inside the building?”. Then,  I receive a phone call and it usually starts with, “We are opening our visitor center in six months and we would like some suggestions on the best type of exhibits? “.   I politely answer the question then start to ask my own questions, “how long before the building is complete?”,  “Who is your audience?”, “What is your budget?”, “How much money do you have left for exhibits?”  (often the answer is “none”).

Don’t let your building and grounds drive your project, people will not visit a museum just to see the building, plan your project from the point of view of the visitor, “what is the visitor going to do?”.  I often refer to it as the “parking lot conversation”; when people have finished with their visit to your museum/visitor center/science center what will they be talking about?  My advice is design to the “parking lot conversation”.


  • Not enough interactive exhibits (only one)
  • Too much text
  • Needs exterior signage
  • Parking confusing
  • Exterior wayfinding

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