museum of natural history officially kicks off campaign for ambitious expansion

The Cleveland Museum of Natural History (CMNH) has launched an ambitious $125 million campaign to renovate and expand its campus in University Circle. Dr. Evalyn Gates, the particle physicist who has led the museum since 2010, wants the new structure to become a hands-on learning lab for green building, science education and environmental stewardship.

"Our role is to give kids a taste of real science with real scientists in a hands-on, minds-on kind of way," says Gates. "We can do things in a museum that can't be done in every classroom. Natural history is about our understanding of the world around us. We can help people better understand our place in the natural world."

CMNH will demolish a portion of its older, 1950s-style building and renovate the rest of it. The museum also will add two light-filled wings, a glassy lobby, and 300-space parking garage. The re-do will bring activity that now takes place in the bowels of the building -- such as paleontology work -- into a more publicly accessible space where people can more easily see it. CMNH has long sought to expand, but its plans were put on hold when the recession hit a few years ago.

Gates believes that the philanthropic appetite exists to fund CMNH's expansion and it can be completed within the next several years. CMNH has already begun to reinvent itself since she assumed the role of director. One example is the SmartHome, Gates says, which was a draw because it was hands-on.

As examples of science education, Gates cited programs like the junior med camp and vet camp, school field trips to the planetarium and a partnership with the Cleveland schools that allows every second grader to visit CMNH for free.

Source: Evalyn Gates
Writer: Lee Chilcote
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