WOBURN, Mass. (CAP) – After opening to much fanfare in the local press, "Fred's Museum of Science" – billed as a less expensive suburban alternative to the Boston Museum of Science – has gone out of business, confirms owner Fred Prywatki.
Prywatki opened the museum three months ago with his brother-in-law, Carl Reinhardt, and financed it with profits from his used car dealership, Prywatki Kia of Pittsfield.
"We were trying to show that you could have a fun, family-friendly, successful museum of science without a bunch of fancy foundations or an affiliation with MIT," said Prywatki. "It turns out we may have been wrong about that."
Located in the Cummings Office Park in Woburn, Mass., about 11 miles north of Boston, Prywatki and Reinhardt billed the museum as "2,000 Square Feet of Scien-Terrific!" But despite offering several amenities unavailable at the Boston Museum of Science – including free parking and Pizza Hut coupons with each admission – Fred's had trouble competing with attractions like the Hayden Planetarium, the Mugar Omni IMAX theater and a dinosaur exhibit featuring a life-sized, scientifically accurate Tyrannosaurus Rex.
In contrast, Fred's dinosaur exhibit featured a Barney the Purple Dinosaur costume positioned on a pedestal with arms outstretched, accompanied by a placard explaining how a real dinosaur would have been different. ("Did you know that actual dinosaurs didn't have googly eyes?" it reads in part.)
The museum was also at the center of several controversies during its short existence, such as when the Barney outfit in question – billed as having been worn by the original TV Barney, David Joyner – was revealed as having been a knockoff from a children's party store. "The first tip-off was that the suit was blue," noted Barney the Purple Dinosaur historian Francis Rudnick.
Prywatki also found himself at the center of several lawsuits, such as when more than a dozen children were injured by falling apples in "Newton's House of Gravity." The museum also came under fire for its exhibit entitled "Bees": Unlike the Boston Museum of Science exhibit of the same name, which features a glassed-in beehive that allows visitors to observe bees in their natural setting, Fred's exhibit was just a room full of loose bees, many of them angry.
"We failed to take into account potential allergy issues," admitted Prywatki.
Disaster was averted on the exhibit's opening day, when a school nurse at the museum on a field trip treated stung children with an EpiPen she had brought with her in case of emergency. "There were kids on the floor blowing up like balloons, and he's there offering them Pizza Hut coupons," said nurse Patti Johansen, referring to Prywatki. "Idiot."
The city of Woburn had apparently had high hopes for Fred's Museum of Science — on the day it opened, the Woburn Daily Times Chronicle featured a front-page photo of Mayor Scott D. Galvin cutting the ribbon for the museum, accompanied by state Sen. James Dwyer, playwright and Woburn native Eric Bogosian, and Prywatki and Reinhardt, both dressed as amoebas.
"We should have guessed something was amiss when we saw the amoeba costumes were made of Hefty garbage bags with paper plates glued to them," said Galvin this week.
"Idiots," added Bogosian.
For his part, Prywatki says the final straw was an incident at the museum last week in "Edison's Electricity Hut" involving a curling iron and a tub full of water. "I just couldn't justify keeping it open after that," said Prywatki. "And I'm sure my brother-in-law would agree with me, if he ever comes out of the coma."