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Museum's Live Research Shuttered

A science exhibit that put active research on public display has failed. The Hall of Exploration at the Columbus Center, a high-tech marine science museum separated by plate-glass windows from the 125 researchers working at the University of Maryland's Center of Marine Biotechnology, closed to the public on Monday because of poor attendance.

The hall's exhibits, including a walk-through cell and mountain waterfall, generally got good reviews for their scientific content and lab techniques that the public could perform (Science, 28 March, p. 1874). But center officials had hoped to attract 280,000 visitors between the hall's opening last May and the end of the year. As of last weekend, just 70,000 people had come. Sources at the center attributed the low attendance to an underfunded marketing effort and competition from other Baltimore attractions, including the nearby Baltimore Aquarium and the Maryland Science Center across the harbor.

The hall will continue to be used by school groups that have been coming to the center for educational activities, says Rita Colwell, president of the University of Maryland's Biotechnology Institute and one of three board members now charged with charting the center's future. "The research and education components of the center have been highly successful," she says. Although tourists off the street will no longer be able to enjoy the exhibits, Colwell and her colleagues are considering new ways to involve the public in the center's activities.