NEW YORK—A 200-gallon aquarium isn't much to brag about. But the tank, together with workstations, microscopes, displays and a helpful staff, have made quite a splash at the new New York Hall of Science in Queens.

The aquarium is one of more than 100 exhibits at the museum, which formally reopened its doors last fall after a five-year, $9 million renovation and a summer-long dress rehearsal. Like the museum itself, the aquarium exhibit is designed to "bring the microscope into the macroscope," explained Geri Unger, biology program coordinator. "We want to demonstrate another layer of the living world and help people learn more about what's under the surface of what they see every day."

The New York Hall of Science is part of a growing international community of hands-on science museums. Some 150 million per-Sons visit more than 800 science museums each year in the United States alone, and the...

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