Natural History Museum celebrates grand opening
The University of Michigan Museum of Natural History reopened on Sunday at its new location in the Biological Sciences Building. This marks the second of three phases of officially reopening the museum, with the third to occur in fall 2019.
Plans to build the new Biological Sciences Building began in 2011, and the University decided to move the museum into the new building. The museum was housed in the Ruthven Museums Building starting in 1928 and officially closed its doors at the end of 2017.
The University’s Board of Regents approved the $261 million construction of the Biological Sciences Building in 2014. The building houses the museum in addition to research laboratories, department offices, classrooms and study spaces.
Lori Ann Dick, manager of marketing and communications for the museum, cited modern research needs as one of the reasons the museum was moved from its previous location at the Ruthven Building. About half of the specimens are from the old museum, while the other half are new.
Another purpose of moving the museum to the new Biological Sciences Building, Dick said, was to show the work of University scientists and researchers to the public.
“(The University) decided to also include the museum so that we could be the public face of the research that goes on at U of M,” Dick said. “The museum winds its way through the labs … and the museum’s on three floors, so visitors do get the opportunity to look into labs and see actual scientists work.”
LSA senior Jianella Macalino began working as a student docent at the Museum of Natural History her sophomore year when it was still located at the Ruthven Building. Macalino said she appreciates the new perspective the museum offered her, in terms of both the exhibits and the visitors.
“I am one of the lucky ones who worked in Ruthven and then transitioned over to here, so I experienced every step of the move from over there to over here … and seeing how differently we can interact with the same specimens from that building to this building and different ways we can teach people and learn and interact with the public has been super interesting to me,” Macalino said.
The museum employed a wristband distribution system to accommodate over 3,000 guests who visited the museum for its grand opening. Although exhibits and attractions like the planetarium and student showcase opened Sunday, three more major exhibits will be opening in November in the third phase of the museum’s relocation. In addition to the exhibits and labs, guests can also dine at Darwin’s Cafe or purchase gifts from the museum store.
LSA sophomore Leanne Olona is also a student docent at the museum. Olona described the positive ambiance of the museum and of her fellow employees, which she said enriches the guests’ experience.
“I genuinely think this is a really good student job, the staff here is really supportive,” Olona said. “Even though you’re a student docent, you are valued just as much as anyone else, so I think that’s been a really great experience … I think that also adds to the overall positive environment that the museum has, is that the staff all gets along and is happy, so then it’s easy when guests come in to also lend that positivity to them.”
Admission to the museum is free for everyone, and the museum is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Students also have the option of purchasing an annual “Wolverine Student” membership, which includes invitations to exclusive events throughout the year, as well as discounts for various attractions and the museum store.