The University of Michigan Museum of Natural History (UMMNH) announced today it will re-open to the public on April 14 in a brand-new building. Favorite displays and specimens will mix with new exhibits in a stunning, state-of-the-art learning facility that combines billions of years of natural history with cutting-edge scientific research.
The museum, part of U-M’s College of Literature, Science, and the Arts, closed in December 2017, moving from its previous home in the Ruthven Building to its current location across the plaza in the new, $261-million, 312,000-square-foot Biological Sciences Building (BSB), one of the largest and most interactive teaching and research facilities of its kind among higher education institutions.
Some of the UMMNH’s newest features include a 25-foot Quetzalcoatlus pterosaur flying high in the BSB 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; and much more. 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 2019.
“This is such an exciting time for the museum,” says Amy Harris, director of the UMMNH. “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 by two 70-year-old puma sculptures at the building’s exterior entrance, 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 four billion years of the history of life on Earth, where they can see and touch real specimens and even a T. rex skull. The museum winds through the BSB, which opened to students in September 2018. The impressive building consists of research labs, classrooms, and administrative offices, as well as the new public museum. If visitors want to take a break during a visit, Darwin’s café is inside the building as well, offering a variety of foods, locally roasted organic coffee, and Light of Day organic Michigan tea.
“We were very intentional about locating the museum within the Biological Sciences Building,” says Chris Poulsen, associate dean of natural sciences and professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at LSA and the Department of Climate and Space Sciences and Engineering at U-M’s 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.”
For researchers, advocates, and supporters, the unique merging of the UMMNH and BSB involves putting science on display and showing how collaborative and engaging science research can be. The BSB also houses two research museums, the U-M Museums of Paleontology and Zoology, which are focused on teaching and research and 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 UMMNH 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. UMMNH welcomes more than 165,000 visitors annually and is free and open to the public upon re-opening on April 14. It is located at 1105 N. University Ave., Ann Arbor, MI. For more information, visit the museum website.