After nearly three years of planning, construction and exhibit design and development, the new Bell Museum will open to the public on July 13-15, 2018, with a grand opening celebration made possible by co-presenting sponsors General Mills and McGough Construction, as well as Boston Scientific and 3M. Events are planned to span the weekend, with a special ticketed party on Friday night. Tickets will be available later this spring, after an exclusive presale for new Bell Museum members.
The Bell is the state’s official natural history museum, established by the legislature in 1872. In 2011, the museum merged with the Minnesota Planetarium Society to ensure the return of a dedicated public planetarium to the Twin Cities. The facility's planetarium is situated at the heart of the building, surrounded by high-tech exhibits, renowned wildlife dioramas, and outdoor learning experiences.
The Bell recently launched an all new summer camp program, which begins June 11, 2018, making children in grades K-8 the first official museum guests in the 21st century museum facility. The camp program offers new programs from art to astronomy and for more grade levels than ever before--several camps have already sold out.
The 146-year-old institution is also announcing a new name: Bell Museum. This simplified name acknowledges the relevance of the past (previously the James Ford Bell Museum of Natural History), and makes way for the museum’s expanded scope. The new Bell not only includes the full dome digital planetarium, but all new exhibition spaces covering broad scientific concepts from cellular to cosmic levels.
Whitney and Elizabeth MacMillan Planetarium
- 120-seat digital planetarium is the first of its kind, using the latest innovations to create a “seamless” dome projection surface.
- Each program in the planetarium will feature a live, interactive tour of the Minnesota Night Sky. Premiering this summer, Minnesota in the Cosmos, the first original Bell Museum planetarium production, tells the geological story of Minnesota.
Dr. Roger E. Anderson Education Wing
- Four dedicated classrooms, outfitted with new technology and equipment to serve the next generation of K-12 learners and support and extend school-based curriculum.
- Anchoring the education wing is the Touch & See Lab with live insects, reptiles and other animals as well as an extensive educational collection of over 400,000 specimens. The Touch & See Lab is celebrating 50 years of active learning and sensory engagement--in 1968 the Bell revolutionized natural history museums by creating the first discovery room in the world.
- The site boasts sustainable landscaping with native plants, geology exploration area, solar and weather stations, honey bee hives, and other highlights.
- The museum is proud to feature locally and sustainably sourced materials such as granite from Morton, Iron Range steel, white pine from Cass Lake (thermally-treated in Palisade) and bird-friendly glass from Owatonna.
- A second floor observation deck complete with a green roof, telescope mounts, and seating to enjoy bird’s eye views of the landscape.
- New exhibition galleries address science topics from life in the universe to current University of Minnesota research, and offer visitors interactive opportunities to meet researchers and learn how they can participate in active citizen science projects.
- The museum’s renowned dioramas, now fully restored, are integrated with new exhibits to create a journey through Minnesota’s biomes. The elaborate restoration process will be on full display in Windows to Nature: Minnesota's Dioramas, a documentary coproduction with TPT–Twin Cities PBS, premiering May 6, 2018.
- The museum will also debut a new, open air diorama featuring an ice age Minnesota. Using the latest innovations in exhibit fabrication, the Pleistocene scene presents a 24 foot high glacier, full scale woolly mammoth, and other Minnesota megafauna.
- An exciting new feature in the Touch & See Lab is Collections Cove, which showcases more specimens from the Bell’s expansive education collection in a setting that mimics the museum’s scientific collections, which preserve over one million from Minnesota, the Midwest region and locales around the globe.
New ways to visit and celebrate
- The new facility now offers several spaces for event rentals, meetings and more. Six weddings have already been booked, most will hold their ceremonies “under the stars” in the planetarium.
- Booking is also open available for PreK-12 group tours—nearly 2,000 planetarium tickets have been reserved in August 2018 alone.
Note: Limited access to the building upon request. Renderings and other images are available for download via Google Drive: z.umn.edu/grandopening
About the Bell Museum
The Bell Museum is Minnesota’s official natural history museum, founded in 1872 and held in trust at the University of Minnesota. A proud part of the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences, our mission is to ignite curiosity and wonder, explore our connections to nature and the universe, and create a better future for our evolving world. For details, visit bellmuseum.umn.edu or find @bellmuseum on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
- Campus Affairs