Remember those wildlife dioramas in the James Ford Bell Museum of Natural History? The ones exposing the pond life, prairie life, and forest life of Minnesota’s environs? Part of the museum’s $79.2-million update—in addition to a new building, a new name, and new collections—included non-reflective glass and ambient nature sounds, to up the immersion of those life-size replicas.
After a couple years of building the space, reinterpreting the wildlife dioramas to reflect a new century, and moving artifacts both old and new, the revamped institution opens with a party this weekend. What used to be the James Ford Bell Museum of Natural History, on the University of Minnesota’s Minneapolis campus, has a new location on the University’s St. Paul campus. The name has been streamlined to Bell Museum, retaining its late namesake, the founder of General Mills and a key figure in the museum’s 20th-century development. The overall effect? Science director George Weiblen hopes it will make the locally beloved museum “really world class.”
New additions include a domed, 120-seat planetarium, a 500-pound woolly mammoth made of fiberglass and Chewbacca fur, an exhibit for celebrated Minnesota nature photographer Jim Brandenburg, new high-tech scientific exhibits, outdoor learning experiences, and more.
The family-friendly party, July 13-15, includes a sneak peek at the new inhabitants, hands-on science projects, and nature-sketching and diorama-building activities. The Bell Museum opens to the public July 16.
The Bell Museum
2088 Larpenteur Ave. W., St. Paul
10 a.m.-5 p.m.