U-M Museum of Natural History announces closing date, shares plans for new museum | Arts & Culture

U-M Museum of Natural History announces closing date, shares plans for new museum

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ANN ARBOR—It’s been more than two years since the University of Michigan Museum of Natural History announced that it would be moving to the new Biological Science Building next door.

Architect’s rendering of the new U-M Biological Science Building, view from Washtenaw Ave. (c) 2015 University of Michigan. Design Team: SmithGroupJJR/Ennead Architects.

Architect’s rendering of the new U-M Biological Science Building, view from Washtenaw Ave. (c) 2015 University of Michigan. Design Team: SmithGroupJJR/Ennead Architects.

Today, the museum announces special events to mark the Dec. 31, 2017, closing of its current location in the Ruthven Museums Building, and opening celebrations for the new Museum of Natural History. The museum also revealed the themes of some of the new exhibit galleries and plans for their new Digital Dome Theater.

Throughout the month of December, the Museum of Natural History will offer visitors opportunities to reflect on the role the Museum has played in their lives, culminating with a “Last Day at the Museum” on Saturday, December 30, 2017, for families and an adults-only, “Last Night at the Museum” New Year’s Eve party on December 31.

OPEN ALL YEAR WITH JUST A FEW CHANGES

Although the museum will operate normally throughout 2017, there are two planned changes to the current site.

In April, a wall will be constructed in front of the Edmontosaurus, a 65-million-year-old dinosaur skeleton, to protect visitors and exhibits from dust as scientists remove the bones from the plaster it’s been lying in for decades. Visitors can peek through windows to watch the process. After it is removed, U-M paleontologists will examine the bones, which will then be prepared for the new museum where it will be displayed in a vertical position.

Current dinosaur exhibition space in the U-M Museum of Natural History, slated to close for relocation on Dec. 31, 2017.

Current dinosaur exhibition space in the U-M Museum of Natural History, slated to close for relocation on Dec. 31, 2017.

And later this spring, many of the native plants in the Butterfly and Pollinator Garden will be moved to a “storage bed” to await later replanting near the Biological Science Building.

“We are thrilled about the plans for our new facility, and delighted to know that the Ruthven Museums Building will be renovated to be the new home for U-M’s administration, research and classrooms,” said Amy Harris, director, U-M Museum of Natural History.

“It’s been a long time since the planning for the new museum began, and the excitement is building as the exhibits take shape. There will be familiar themes as well as exhibits on topics we’ve never addressed before.”

OLD FAVORITES AND NEW TOPICS

Fondly known as the “Dinosaur Museum,” the Museum of Natural History will continue to have the largest display of dinosaurs in Michigan. The new prehistoric life exhibit will feature familiar dinosaur specimens as well as a new cast skeleton of Majungasaurus and a new touchable skull of T.rex. The new Michigan gallery will explore the natural wonders of our state—from its formation in prehistoric times, to the diverse range of ecosystems we see today.

With a nod towards one of the museum’s new neighbors in the BSB—the Department of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology—one exhibit will present biology at the smallest scale—cells, molecules and genes. And since this content can’t be seen with the naked eye, it’s been magnified 100,000 times so that visitors can walk into a cell and see its inner workings. There also will be microscopes for examining cells and activities including a digital game showing how environment can affect gene expression.

OPENING IN STAGES

“Developing a new museum is a tremendous undertaking, so we are planning to open in stages instead of waiting until everything is complete,” Harris said.

When the BSB opens for classes in fall 2018, the museum’s iconic mastodon couple will greet people as they enter the new museum, and the two prehistoric whales—Basilosaurus and Dorudon—will be hanging high overhead in the dramatic five-story atrium.

Preliminary schematic design of 'Exploring Evolution' gallery with new cast skeleton of Majungasaurus; Rendering courtesy Great Plains Exhibit Development / University of Michigan.

Preliminary schematic design of ‘Exploring Evolution’ gallery with new cast skeleton of Majungasaurus; Rendering courtesy Great Plains Exhibit Development / University of Michigan.

Significant portions of the museum will open to the public in spring 2019, including some of the major exhibit galleries. The new Digital Dome Theater will open, featuring state-of-the-art technology that will expand traditional planetarium capabilities into other realms of science such as biology, geology, and archaeology. Additionally, visitors will be able to see U-M scientists at work in the Visible Paleontology Lab and see U-M’s research on display in Research Stations located throughout the museum.

The final opening event will be held in fall 2019 when the rest of the new museum is complete, including the remaining exhibit galleries and two public Investigate Labs, where visitors can participate in hands-on science activities.

*This article was updated to reflect changes in the family celebration marking the closing of the current museum.