Decatur’s Cook’s Pest Control unveils plan for new natural science museum


Plans for the Cook Museum of Natural Science, announced earlier this year, have significantly expanded to better meet projected attendance levels. (Contributed photo)

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DECATUR, Ala. (WHNT) – Cook’s Pest Control announced in January it would spend $7 million revamping the Cook Museum of Natural Science in downtown Decatur.

Officials said the expanded attraction would lure up to 200,000 visitors within its first year of operation and bring new life to a vacant auto parts store in the heart of the River City.

Since January plans for the 34-year-old natural science facility have changed, big time.

Cook’s said Thursday it has come up with a new plan for the museum based on attendance projections. The estimated cost for expanding the nonprofit organization is now $15 million, up from $10 million eight months ago.

It’s been a family legacy and a student filed trip staple in the tri-county area for decades, but now the museum is on the move.

“My grandfather passed away with pancreatic cancer five-and-a-half years ago and as a family we had to decide what we wanted the Cook Museum to be,” explains museum board president, Brian Cook.

What started as a small insect collection turned veritable wildlife menagerie will now expand to exciting new heights.

Cook’s now plans to tear down the existing museum on 133 Fourth Ave. N.E. and construct a 57,000-square-foot multi-level building on the former site of the Car Quest Auto Parts building at Lee Street and Fourth Avenue.

The new facility will also have 5,000 square feet of traveling exhibit space.

The current museum operates on more of a ‘look and see’ model.

“We want to be more educational; more hands-on exhibits, more technology incorporated into the exhibits,” Cook says.

Instead of viewing rocks and minerals from behind a glass panel, Cook’s geological specimens will soon be displayed in a new exploratory cave environment. The facility will also boast 4 saltwater aquariums featuring jellyfish, coral reef inhabitants and terrariums.

Cook’s plans to add additional classroom space by offering a room for young children interested in birthday parties and hands-on activities, and another for older kids to participate in lab-based programs.

Construction is set to kick off in April 2015, while the museum will open in the first quarter of 2017. There will be opportunities to support the facility financially later in the year.

The original Cook’s museum opened in the 1960s as a bug collection to train employees. Today, the exhibit features more than 1,200 specimens and collections of mounted birds and animals, rocks and minerals, insects, seashells and corals.