Science says time travel is impossible, but for Ray Calhoun, his last trip to the SciTech Science Museum in downtown Aurora was a bit like time travel.
Calhoun, who grew up in Batavia and now lives in Waterman, stood in the SciTech gift shop and was taken back to the many trips he made to the museum with his grandfather, or when he and his troupe scouts spent the night there. .
“There are a lot of memories here,” he said.
Those were common sentiments last week as the museum opened to the public for the last time before closing permanently later this week. The SciTech Board of Directors chose Aurora’s monthly First Fridays event for the latest look at the STEM educational institution.
“It’s been like this all night,” SciTech director Faith Slowinski said Friday night. “Everyone shares memories.”
Memories like those of Liz Henkleman, of Batavia, who brought her children to SciTech. One of his daughters, Rose Marie Ball, of Hinckley, even worked there later.
“It’s sad that it’s closing,” Henkleman said.
Some of the shine was gone last week, as the museum was a shell unto itself. Some exhibits were no longer working, and others had been dismantled and stored in the back.
It was probably similar to the last days of places like Riverview Amusement Park in Chicago or Comiskey Park just before the wrecking ball did its thing.
Henkleman introduced his unique favorite exhibit, known as the Bubbler, in which people could shoot a giant soap bubble around them.
While Henkleman could operate the device, there was no water, soap, or giant bubble.
Slowinski said a woman who had worked at the museum discovered that the exhibit she was working on had been dismantled. But Slowinski found him in the back and let the woman see him.
Ruth Medrano brought her 10-year-old daughter, Adaliah, to the museum, which she had visited several times in her youth.
“It’s sad to see that go away,” Medrano said. “It was quite nice having him here.”
SciTech’s board of directors announced in May that the 34-year-old museum located in Aurora’s former post office building at 18 W. Benton St. would be closing permanently.
The closure follows more than two years of the museum being closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Several factors conspired to prevent the reopening of the museum in this location.
The City of Aurora owns the building and has generated interest in redevelopment of the property – including a large brewery and restaurant.
Museum officials were looking for an alternate location, including at the Fox Valley Mall, but officials said after careful consideration, the museum would not be moving to a physical space.
The museum board will continue to operate and retain SciTech as a STEM educational resource. It will retain resources such as Starlab, a portable planetarium, and some of the favorite hands-on program elements.
The museum’s board will seek partnerships with area schools, park districts and libraries, venues providing space for exhibits and learning opportunities.
While the museum is now closed to the public, this week a sales event for exhibits and exhibits is taking place. It started on Monday and will continue until Friday. Hours are 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday, Thursday and Friday and 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday.
Larger items purchased must be removed from SciTech no later than 4 p.m. Friday, June 10.
All of this means SciTech will be just a memory for people like Aurora’s Landa Midgley, who said she practically raised her daughter, Siobhan, at SciTech. Siobhan even won the Sci Bee the museum held when she was in fifth grade.
“There are so many memories here,” Midgley said.
Her husband Fred said Siobhan “must have done a million trips here”.
“Many generations of Aurora children grew up here,” he said.
That’s why officials opened the museum one last time.
“We’re really happy that we were able to do this,” Slowinski said. “People could say goodbye in their own way.”