DE Museum of Natural History to Close for Major Renovations in 2021; Will Reopen as Delaware Museum of Nature and Science

Executive Director Halsey Spruance with children on a field trip today at the Delaware Museum of Natural History

The museum in the heart of Greenville known for wildlife dioramas and hosting the only two dinosaurs on permanent display in the state is setting its future focus firmly on science, the environment and education.

The strategic transformation for the Delaware Museum of Natural History will come with a major redesign of its galleries and public spaces, which will require the museum’s closure for all of 2021. 

It will be the most significant redesign since the museum’s opening in 1972.

The DMNH welcomes more than 65,000 visitors each year

“We’re moving from like the old way of doing natural history museums, which is based on taxa, which is Earth, sea, and sky,… to the ecosystems,” said Executive Director Halsey Spruance. “We’re doing ecosystems so that we can infuse a lot of different science into those lesson plans.”

When the institution opens its doors again in 2020, it will also have a new name to go with its refined mission: the Delaware Museum of Nature and Science.

The “reimagining” of the museum’s physical site and mission will be funded with a $9.8 million capital campaign announced today.  Museum leaders say they have already raised more than half of that target through government, corporate, foundation and individual contributions.

 

The new focus and look for the museum comes after they conducted focus groups, community discussions and expert consultation “to create a vision for experiential programs, innovative exhibits and 21st Century approaches to nature and science education,” said Spruance.

“By switching from static, taxonomy-based dioramas to interactive, ecosystem-based areas, the new museum will inspire people to discover, examine, and uncover the wonders of science in the natural world,” said Spruance.

Plans for the new museum will be unveiled to the public in June. 

DMNH Museum staff are busy installing Tropical Odyssey, which opens on Saturday

Museum trustee and campaign co-chair Ian R. McConnel said feedback from community stakeholders was critical in informing the new vision of being “up-to-date, hands-on, action-oriented and relevant.”

“[They] expressed that science, the environment and education are more important to them than ever before,” said McConnel.

 

Spruance said the museum hoped to serve “as a kind of village green” in environmental education by partnering with universities, environmental organizations and government agencies across the region.

“There’s a whole lot of really wonderful science going on throughout the state and in Maryland, southeastern Pennsylvania and over in New Jersey, too,” he said.

Highlights of the transformed museum will include a focus on area biodiversity, a Global Ecosystems Journey Gallery, opportunities to go back in time and roam with dinosaurs in the PaleoZone, tracing evolution along the outdoor Evolution Trail.

Related: New Museum Trail Offers Compelling Tour Through Earth’s History

The DMNH opened its Evolution Trail in October. Each one-foot length of the trail equals two million years.

The “Museum Metamorphosis” campaign, as they are calling it, includes funding for the design and construction of new exhibits and outdoor components, as well as installing an up-to-date fire suppression system. 

This is the Kennett Pike museum’s second capital campaign. A $5 million campaign in 2005 created a new entrance vestibule, a sky-lit atrium in the center of the museum, and a new gallery dedicated to traveling exhibits, among other updates.

The Museum will present its first bi-lingual exhibition when Tropical Odyssey opens this weekend

Their newest special exhibition, Tropical Odyssey, opens to the public this Saturday, February 8th. Kids and their parents will be able to traverse a made of activities throughout the exhibition, which focuses on butterfly farming in tropical rainforests. There’s even a short zip line that kids can ride through the rainforest!

To learn more about the museum’s plans go to: https://www.delmnh.org/


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