The Delaware Museum of Nature and Science will reopen with a series of events over four days from May 20 to May 23, when it will finally open its doors to the public.
The Greenville museum will be the 21st century version of the old natural history museum, which opened 50 years ago with a collection of birds and nearly 1 million shells.
The redo took the building’s guts down to the studs behind the walls, and visitors now will find exhibits that allow them to trace the area’s scientific history — including the planet, animals and man– from the Cretaceous Period to modern times.
“We’ve completely shed that dusty, old museum perception. The Delaware Museum of Nature and Science is dynamic, engaging, interactive, relevant, and modern,” said Executive Director Halsey Spruance in a press release. “Our focus is on what we know about nature and science, why it matters to us, and what we can do to protect the environment. There’s a huge emphasis on how we are all connected and how our actions matter.”
The museum’s $10.8 million, 17-month renovation project began at the end of 2020. Many of the exhibits had been in place since 1972, and the installation of the new exhibits has been going on since the end of 2021.
In addition to the galleries, visitors will reap the benefits of new lighting and sound systems, a new fire alarm and fire suppression system, new paving, a new heating and air conditioning system and renovated bathrooms.
Guests will start their visit in the atrium, where they will find the Tree of Life, visually depicting the evolution of organisms over billions of years and the relationships between them.
Off the atrium, the Bill & Denise Spence Discovery Gallery will offer rotating, hands-on exhibits. The opening exhibits include material from the Delaware Mineralogical Society, First State Robotics and the University of Delaware, in addition to the museum’s Collections & Research Division.
Visitors are expected to start their rambling by turning left in the foyer to the Ellice & Rosa McDonald Foundation PaleoZone. There, they will find creatures that lived in the Mid-Atlantic during the Cretaceous Period. Skeletons of the fearsome Dryptosaurus dinosaur, the flying “bat lizard” Nyctosaur, and the aquatic giant Mosasaur are joined by smaller specimens.
Next, adventurers will find the Alison K. Bradford Global Journey Gallery and a giant floor map of the world, surrounded by three land-based ecosystems, including a tropical rainforest, Arctic tundra and African savanna, along with three different ocean environments — shallow, mid-water and deep).
The ecosystems demonstrate nature’s diversity, the interdependency of life, and how humans play the biggest role in change.
The last big display will be in the Regional Journey Gallery. There, guests will be able to stroll across a giant floor map of the state and explore deciduous and mixed forests, the Bald Cypress Swamp, a saltmarsh, dunes, and the Delaware Bay.
Designated areas such as the Fair Play Foundation Field Station and the DuPont Research Headquarters provide an opportunity to learn what is happening in our local region and beyond.
New to the museum will be the Rest, Relax, Recharge Café with prepackaged sandwiches, salads and snacks from Jamestown Catering, along with coffee, water, and other beverages.
Also new is the Delaware Community Foundation Respite Room, a dedicated, calming space for visitors with sensory challenges and developmental disorders to take a break, as well as a quiet and private option for nursing parents.
The opening weekend events will include:
- Friday, May 20, 10 a.m. Ribbon cutting and museum tours for invited guests and the media.
- Saturday, May 21, and Sunday, May 22, 9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Member-only preview, sponsored by M&T Bank/Wilmington Trust. Special tours will be given about the renovation process and new exhibits throughout the weekend. Those days are open to museum members, as well as members of partners Delaware Art Museum, Hagley Museum & Library, Mt. Cuba, Tyler Arboretum and the Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library, and Tyler Arboretum. Admission is free; pre-registration for timed tickets is required. A portal for that will be added to delmns.org in early May
- Monday, May 23, 9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Open to the public, with timed tickets available in early May.
Afterwards, the museum will be open seven days a week from 9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Admission will be $12.95 for ages 3 and up, $3.95 for toddlers ages 1-2, and free for infants under 12 months. Tickets bought online will get a $1 discount. Admission will be free for DelMNS members.
For the first year, members of Delaware Art Museum, Hagley Museum & Library, Mt. Cuba, Tyler Arboretum and Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library also will receive free general admission.
Betsy Price is a Wilmington freelance writer who has 40 years of experience.
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