February 6, 2019
The University of Michigan Museum of Natural History has announced it will reopen to the public April 14 in a brand-new building.
Favorite displays and specimens will mix with new exhibits in a state-of-the-art learning facility that combines billions of years of natural history with cutting-edge scientific research.
The museum, part of LSA, closed in December 2017, moving from its previous home in the Ruthven Building across the plaza to the new $261 million, 312,000-square-foot Biological Sciences Building, one of the largest and most interactive teaching and research facilities of its kind among higher education institutions.
Some of the museum’s newest features include:
• A 25-foot Quetzalcoatlus pterosaur suspended high in the Biological Sciences Building atrium.
• A high-tech planetarium and dome theater.
• An interactive, multimedia “Tree of Life” display to illustrate the connections among all living things.
• The Fossil Prep Lab, where visitors can see how fossils are prepared for study and display.
• The Student Showcase, which features research projects from U-M undergraduate students across disciplines.
A life-size model of the prehistoricQuetzalcoatlus pterosaur appears to soar in the five-story atrium of the Biological Sciences Building. (Photo by Michelle Andonian)
The museum will serve as a space where visitors can learn and explore about the past while discovering the present. Additional exhibits, including one about the natural history of Michigan and another exploring the world of microbiology, will open in November.
“This is such an exciting time for the museum,” said Amy Harris, its director. “We’re looking forward to seeing our visitors’ faces as they discover old friends, such as the mastodon couple in their new home, or meet our new dinosaur, Majungasaurus, for the first time. It is an important moment for the university and the community at large, and we look forward to sharing our new space with everyone.”
Visitors will be welcomed at the building’s entrance by two 70-year-old puma sculptures, favorites of many students and the public. Upon entering, they will be greeted by the museum’s iconic mastodon couple, view prehistoric whale skeletons, and walk through 4 billion years of the history of life on Earth, where they can see and touch real specimens and even a T. rex skull.
The U-M Museum of Natural History is the only place in the world where visitors can find a mastodon couple exhibited together. (Photo by Michelle Andonian)
The museum winds through the Biological Sciences Building, which opened to students in September 2018. The building consists of research labs, classrooms and administrative offices, as well as the new public museum and Darwin’s café.
“We were very intentional about locating the museum within the Biological Sciences Building,” said Chris Poulsen, associate dean of natural sciences and professor of earth and environmental sciences in LSA, and climate and space sciences and engineering in the College of Engineering.
“At U-M, we are strongly committed to breaking down barriers to create a space for science to be interactive, engaging and transcendent. This is a very exciting and historic moment for us, our students and visitors from around Michigan and the world.”
The new Planetarium and Dome Theater will give visitors a chance to travel to places like faraway galaxies or dive into the depths of the ocean. (Photo by Michelle Andonian)
For researchers, advocates and supporters, the unique merging of the Museum of Natural History and the Biological Sciences Building involves putting science on display and showing how collaborative and engaging science research can be, Poulsen said.
The building also houses two research museums, the U-M museums of Paleontology and Zoology, which are focused on teaching and research, and are not open to the public. The combined space will provide an educational experience for visitors and a place for scientists to showcase their current research.
The Museum of Natural History’s roots go back to the university’s first natural history collections, dating to 1837. U-M’s collections have been on public display since 1841. The Museum of Natural History welcomes more than 165,000 visitors annually and is free to the public. It is located at 1105 N. University Ave.
Exterior of the main entrance of the new U-M Museum of Natural History at the Biological Sciences Building. (Photo © Bruce Damonte)