Two years after closing its doors, the University of Michigan’s Museum of Natural History is now reopened in the new Biological Sciences Building. The new museum features plenty of old favorites (yes, the puma statues are on display!) and cool new exhibits including a massive mastodon couple discovered in Owosso, Michigan, and near Ft. Wayne, Indiana that greet visitors at the entrance. And the museum continues to host the largest display of dinosaurs in Michigan.
In with the old, and the new
The new facility features two floors of interactive exhibits. Along with the mastodons, and two prehistoric whale skeletons overhead in the lobby, the first floor features an exhibit, Measuring Time and Space, with hands-on activities encouraging visitors to investigate the ways scientists measure the natural world. Zoom through the universe, and measure your height in turtles, cats, and penguins.
Head upstairs where to journey through four billion years of life on Earth in the Evolution: Life Through Time exhibit. This exhibit currently occupies the majority of the second floor’s space, until other exhibits open later this year, and includes plenty of hands-on and interactive opportunities for visitors. Check out the touchable skull (a cast) of a T. Rex! The exhibit will enthrall any ancient life or dinosaur enthusiast. As you exit this exhibit be prepared to be wowed by the life size replica of the pterosaur Quetzalcoatlus northropi spreading its 35-foot wingspan over the West Atrium.
The second floor also features displays that teach how our planet formed and boast a range of cool rocks, minerals, and crystals. The Dynamic Planet gallery even lets you touch an asteroid that crashed to earth 50,000 years ago. As well, the multimedia Tree of Life exhibit explores the connections between all living things.
Scientists at work today
Because the new museum is located in the Biological Sciences Building it offers visitors the opportunity to interact with scientists and students working and conducting research in two labs: the Biodiversity Lab and then Fossil Prep Lab. Be sure to watch the fascinating process of preparing fossils in the Fossil Prep Lab before heading upstairs to see them on display. And watch researchers study the genomes of different species in the Biodiversity Lab. Upping the cool factor, each lab offers a two-way speaker system that allows lab workers to answer questions from museumgoers.
See the night sky and more
One of the most exciting features of the new facility is the state-of-the-art Planetarium & Dome Theater that transports visitors beyond distant stars! The new digital dome technology also takes visitors beyond space to explore the oceans’ reefs, earth’s geology, weather and more, all with surround sound and comfortable seats. And over time, programs on weather, geology, and evolution will pair striking visuals with the museum’s hands-on exhibits. Currently programming explores the oceans’ reefs, the periodic table, and the night sky. Head online to view the full show schedule. Tickets for all shows are $8 per person and are available for purchase in the Museum Store.
Nearby parking and a new cafe make things easy
Entry to the museum is still free, while donations are of course appreciated. The new museum is easily identified on campus by the “Golden Dome” of the planetarium in the Biological Sciences Building off Washtenaw Avenue. The Palmer Parking Structure is just a short walk north of the museum where visitor parking is available for an hourly rate. Or, take the bus! Several AAATA bus lines stop nearby at the Central Campus Transit Center. No food or drink is permitted to be taken into the museum exhibits however the new structure hosts the Darwin Cafe which sells sandwiches, soups, smoothies along with a full coffee and tea menu.
A bright future
Longtime Museum fans along with new visitors will be awed by this, light and airy location packed with minds-on, interactive exhibits. The Museum will continue to roll-out new exhibits throughout the year, including Under the Microscope, an interactive, multimedia exploration of life’s building blocks that will literally walk visitors through a giant model cell. In November, they will also have on display the famed bristle mammoth’s skull that was found near Chelsea in 2015.
Open Sunday-Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday from 9am-5pm, Thursday from 9am-8pm. University of Michigan Museum of Natural History, Biological Sciences Building, 1105 North University Ave. 734-764-0478. lsa.umich.edu/ummnh