(HARRISBURG) – The doors to the Pennsylvania State Capitol’s Welcome Center were reopened at a ribbon-cutting ceremony today, by Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R-25) and House Speaker Sam Smith (R-66).
The newly renovated, 1,850-square-foot Welcome Center, located in the East Wing of the State Capitol Complex, features 11 exhibits designed to help visitors learn about state government.
Smith and Scarnati explained that the original Welcome Center, constructed in 1995, featured outdated technology and was showing significant signs of wear and tear after decades of hosting more than 200,000 visitors each year.
“It is absolutely essential for our Capitol Building to include a learning center where students and adults can creatively learn about the history of this state, this magnificent building and how our democratic process works,” Smith said. “Given the thousands of students that visit each year, and the fact that much of the technology was broken and outdated, we believed it was essential to upgrade the center.”
“The renovation of the Capitol Welcome Center was a great collaborative effort between the Legislature and Department of General Services,” Scarnati said. “The updated space is a place where visitors of all ages can actively engage with exhibits and features to learn more about state government and our Commonwealth.”
The legislators said that prior to the renovation they were told that with so much of the technology broken down and outdated, school children were becoming significantly less engaged in the learning experience.
“The renovation of the Welcome Center has allowed for the addition of new displays as well as the update of some features previously enjoyed by visitors,” Smith and Scarnati explained.
The focal point of the new visitor’s area is an 8-foot replica of Lady Commonwealth made from Lego blocks. The statue is surrounded by four interactive games that children can play using their feet, which teach about the state’s symbols, famous Pennsylvanians, and facts about state government and its history. Another nearby exhibit features holograms of two state legislators discussing state issues. On the opposite side of the center are two enhanced features previously featured in the Capitol, a voting booth and three-dimensional display of the Capitol Complex.
The $707,000 project was funded jointly through the Chief Clerk’s offices of the House and Senate. Bids were solicited and Exhibits Studios of Harrisburg was awarded the contract.
The legislators noted that tens of thousands of dollars were saved on the project by using the talents of Capitol staff to do writing and research, produce high-definition videos, shoot photos and provide computer support. Additionally, the Department of General Services assisted with demolition, painting, electrical and other infrastructure work.
The Welcome Center at the State Capitol is a self-guided area featuring exhibits that are independent of one another and do not have to be viewed in sequence. The center is open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. throughout the year. Capitol tours for school groups or individuals can be scheduled through the offices of state legislators or by calling 717-787-6810.
Kelly Fedeli email@example.com – Speaker Sam Smith – (717) 783-1633
Kate Eckhart firstname.lastname@example.org – Senator Joe Scarnati – (717) 787-7084