Hutchinson The Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center's upcoming exhibit will literally change the face of the museum.
The space museum plans to create a new main entrance that can accommodate the 6,000-square-foot Liberty Bell 7 traveling exhibit, which will spread across the main lobby and into a nearby banquet room.
"We'll move our main entrance and ticket counter and close the current main entrance for a while," said Cosmosphere marketing director Karen Siebert.
The exhibit tells the story of Liberty Bell 7 and how the Mercury capsule ended up on the bottom of the Atlantic in 1961. The Liberty Bell 7 is the only U.S. spacecraft ever lost at sea.
It was recovered in 1999 and underwent months of restoration at the Cosmosphere before embarking on a five-year traveling tour.
Workers will begin setting up the exhibit Feb. 19, but the display won't open until March 1. The traveling exhibit will remain through May 26.
The Cosmosphere is gearing up a major advertising campaign to attract people statewide to the Liberty Bell 7 exhibit, Siebert said. The advertising will include billboards and radio and television spots.
"There will be a lot of effort in the Wichita and Reno County area," Siebert said. "But we're also trying to reach people statewide."
Jeff Ollenburger, president and chief executive officer of the Cosmosphere, has high hopes the Liberty Bell 7 display will boost attendance at the Cosmosphere. The museum typically has its biggest attendance month in March, drawing close to 35,000 people. April and May usually draw close to 25,000 visitors.
"We've budgeted conservatively for a 10 percent increase in attendance," Ollenburger said. "But we just don't know how people will respond. This kind of a traveling exhibit is a whole new arena for us."
The traveling exhibit, "The Lost Spacecraft: Liberty Bell 7 Recovered," will charge admission; $8 for adults, $5 for children ages 5 to 12 and free for children age 4 and under.
Once the traveling exhibit completes its tour, the entire show will return to the Cosmosphere permanently in the summer of 2005.
"We'll have Liberty Bell 7 on permanent display, but we won't have enough room to put all the hands-on displays out for the public," he said. "It's just too big."