Orange County's Discovery Science Center will be presented Wednesday with a National Medal for Museum and Library Service. It's the nation's highest honor for such institutions and this is the first time any California science museum has received the award. It comes as the Discovery Science Center is expanding to a second facility in the San Fernando Valley.
How it got that facility is a long story.
It started in 2008 when another museum - the Children's Museum of Los Angeles - filed for bankruptcy. That museum had already built a shiny new building at San Fernando Valley's Hansen Dam Recreation Area. But due to bad finances, the Children's Museum went under.
City Council member Richard Alarcon represents that area and was helping guide the project at the time.
"So we had this shell of a building, a beautiful building," said Alarcon. "We needed somebody to manage it."
If the city couldn't fill it with a museum it would lose millions of dollars of grant money - not to mention the chance to give the valley a first class educational experience. So councilmember Alarcon started looking for another place to partner with.
"Early on I took my daughter Camilla when she was two years old to the Discovery Science Center and I knew it was a hit," he said.
The city began talks with the Center, and by late last year a deal was finalized. The revamped museum is tentatively called The Discovery Science Center Los Angeles. It will have sections on the environment and healthy living, as well as traveling exhibits. In the past the Center hosted a show on the science of Star Wars and an Indiana Jones-themed archeology exhibit.
Plus, Science Center spokesman Dan Nasitka say, the center will create outreach programs to bring science lessons to local schools.
"You know, it's exciting that we get to bring all of the best things we do in Orange County, in terms of all our outreach, our crazy cool exhibits we get down here," he said, and "we get to bring all of that to the valley."
Nasitka says the Center has already secured nearly $23 million for the new facility. The money comes from the city of L.A., the state, and the federal government.
It's enough to move ahead. If all goes well the new museum will open in November of next year.