NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Ahead of its 30th birthday, Nauticus is investing more than $21 million to “reimagine” the downtown Norfolk science center and museum, with new interactive exhibits, visitor spaces and more.

The project is being billed as the first significant investment in exhibits and educational programming since the facility opened in 1994. The “state-of-the-art” additions include five large-scale and interactive gallery spaces across the whole third floor.

Visitor spaces overall will see an overhaul, including a new “Wonder Hall” that will greet visitors when they enter.

“It will be far more engaging and experiential,” said Stephen Kirkland, the CEO and President of Nauticus in a video promoting the new project. “… everything will look completely different.”

Nauticus says it’s raised nearly 80% of its $21.5 million goal, with Monday’s announcement marking the start of the capital campaign’s public phase.

Construction on phase one of the project already started back in November, meaning two galleries will open as early as this summer. Phase two brings the comprehensive redesign and won’t be completed until early 2024, though Nauticus will remain open to the public.

The Norfolk In Time exhibit scheduled open in summer 2023 (Courtesy of Nauticus)

The exhibits set for 2023 are called “Norfolk In Time,” highlighting Norfolk and surrounding area throughout history, and “Aquaticus,” a maritime-focused exhibit built for smaller children. Aquaticus will let kids crawl through the Schooner Virginia, see sea critters and much more, Kirkland says.

The Aquaticus exhibit set to open in summer 2023. (Courtesy of Nauticus)

Phase two will have exhibits called Modern Naval Power, Water Port (highlighting the Port of Virginia), and Design, Build, Sail!, which lets visitors sail a vessel themselves.

“This is without question the most important thing this organization has been through,” Kirkland.

Monday’s announcement comes just a month after Nauticus also announced the 6,500-square-foot exhibit Game Changers would be at the facility until April 30. Billed as a “one-of-a-kind video game arcade, Kirkland says this exhibit has a “universal appeal.”

You can read more about the reimaging project and see more renderings here.