The Renaissance Center in Dickson will be transformed into the world’s largest Christian-based science museum by year’s end, according to David Rives Ministries, a nonprofit currently located in Lewisburg.
The Wonders Center & Science Museum will be the new name for the over 20-year-old, distinctive facility in Dickson. In addition to the museum, the facility will be the television studio for the Genesis Science Network, which is operated by David Rives Ministries.
“One thing you won’t find in our displays and exhibits is evolutionary theory,” Rives said in a press release. “Our youth today have been told that they are ‘starstuff’ or accidents of the cosmos. Many students believe that they are products of chance.”
“Our purpose is to highlight amazing design in anatomy, astronomy, physics, mathematics, biology, and more,” Rives added. “By studying these things closely, visitors will see how this design reveals God’s fingerprints throughout the universe.”
Plans for The Wonders Center & Science Museum include replicas of life-size dinosaurs, hands-on experiments for children, space-themed exhibits, and a collection of artifacts, including Biblical scrolls, according to the release.
The Renaissance Center was auctioned off earlier this year after the owners, Freed-Hardeman University, began the process of moving classes and students out of the facility. Before the auction Freed-Hardeman put the center on the market in August of 2020.
Dickson County Schools administrators and the school board have discussed in recent years buying the center to use. But the estimated $4.7 million in upgrades needed and facility maintenance was often a deterrent for the school board.
Rives’ said the move from the ministry’s current 12,000 square-foot facility in Lewisburg – located about 60 miles south of Nashville – to the over 100,000-square-foot Renaissance Center will make The Wonders Center the “largest science museum in the world that upholds biblical values.”
Rives is the host of his own weekly television series, discussing the creation of the world “while pointing to God’s design,” according to the press release.
The Rives ministry has operated Genesis Science Network, a television network airing Christian shows and programming, including nature documents, science shows, and children’s content.
The building and campus sustained storm damage from the tornadoes that hit the Nashville area last year and will require a complete refit and technology upgrades, Rives states, and the ministry is in the process of “raising resources” needed for repairs and technological refitting of the planetarium.
The planetarium, which is the center’s 85-foot-tall spherical dome, could allow visitors to view the cosmos.
“This is not only a unique structure and landmark of the community, but will provide education and inspiration to hundreds of thousands of visitors, children and adults alike, of the immensity and beauty of space,” said Rives in the press release. “We believe our vision and our mission aligns closely with the mission of the Jackson Foundation when they built this amazing facility in 1999.”
Renaissance Center facility, history
The 7.5-acre property is currently occupied by three different entities; The Jackson Foundation, Nashville State Community College and Freed-Hardeman University. The Jackson Foundation, the original developers/ownership group, occupies a number of small offices and a recording studio area.
The Jackson Foundation was created following the sale of the Jackson family’s not-for-profit Goodlark Hospital to the for-profit HCA/Columbia healthcare corporation for $103 million. As required by federal law, the Jackson Foundation was created with an $80 million endowment as part of the sale. The Renaissance Center was created in 1999 part of the foundation’s mission. The cost was $18 million building with $7 million of fixtures, furniture, equipment and technology.