Lowell Nichols and his brother-in-law Donald Whitman studied a placard in the main gallery of the Reach center at the west end of Columbia Park in Richland.
The gallery tells the story of the Hanford Reach National Monument land and surrounding region through time, from the Ice Age floods to the modern era.
And the men were fascinated by the glimpse into the natural history.
Whitman, 85, who was visiting from Arizona, said getting a crash course in "the geology and the ancient flooding in the area" struck him the most.
"I think they've done a good job" on the museum, said Nichols, 78, of Richland.
The men had been at the Reach center -- a hybrid museum, interpretive center and performing arts venue -- for a couple hours but still hadn't seen all it had to offer.
They weren't sure they'd be able to see everything by closing time. But they'll have time to return -- the Reach center is new, just starting its life as a local institution.
The facility's official opening day was July 4, and so far it has welcomed more than 3,000 visitors.
Plus it's seen more than 2,000 people through special events and youth activities and tours. About 1,700 people attended The Sound of Music performed in the outdoor theater.
Staff already is working on more theater offerings.
"We're thrilled with the participation of the community, with their embracing of this new building," said Lisa Toomey, Reach chief executive officer.
The facility's 14,000-square-foot main level includes two galleries -- one with the Hanford Reach exhibit and another that tells the story of the Manhattan Project and the Hanford nuclear site's early days. Other features range from an exhibit highlighting the region's agriculture heritage to a digital planet and an aquarium.
The Reach also has a mix of outdoor offerings, including a theater and a stage.
It took years to bring the Reach center to fruition, and the building's debut doesn't mean the work has stopped.
Far from it. "Now the next part becomes, how do we fully utilize this wonderful new resource we have -- for education, for art, for science, for heritage, for history?" Toomey told the Herald, adding that she sees it as a platform and "what we do and where we go and how we develop it is really up to the community."
"This is just the beginning," she said.
-- Sara Schilling: 509-582-1529; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @saraTCHerald