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This year marks the 100th anniversary of in Natural History Museum (NHM) in Los Angeles. Since first opening its doors in 1913 in Exposition Park, just west of Downtown Los Angeles, the facility has given millions of visitors a fascinating look into the world of science, history and art, while highlighting the ancient lives of dinosaurs and other living creatures.
To celebrate its centennial, the museum is throwing a big birthday bash this summer, with new exhibits, displays and the culmination of a seven-year, $173 million renovation to the property that created a 3.5-acre urban wilderness destination known as the North Campus.
“North Campus is a major part of the historic metamorphosis taking place at NHM,” says Dr. Jane Pisano, president and director of the Museum. “We are entering a new dimension of programming, extending the visitor experience from an incredible collection of natural specimens inside to an outdoor space where plants and animals can be interpreted in a living context.”
This area, which will serve as a new “front yard” for the museum and a new outdoor destination in the heart of Los Angeles, will feature habitats of butterflies, birds, bugs and plants, and will be a place where visitors can “partner with museum scientists on citizen science projects while discovering and enjoying the rich diversity of life that flourishes all around.”
The project increases the programming area of the Museum by 50 % and gives visitors the opportunity to deepen their understanding of the natural world before walking through the Museum’s doors. Highlights of the 108,000-sq-ft transformation include renovated and reinstalled indoor space, a parking structure, café, and pedestrian bridge, and a stunning glass structure known as the Otis Booth Pavilion, or the “Whale Pavilion.”
The project began in 2006 with the renovation and seismic retrofitting of the museum’s iconic 1913 Beaux Arts-styled main building. This was a meticulous process because the museum didn’t want to change the appearance of the building with all of its classic columns, cornices, arches, domes and brilliant rotunda, which measures 58 ft-high by 75 ft across, and is topped with a spectacular stained glass skylight 20 ft in diameter.
Another highlight of the renovation is the new Otis Booth Pavilion, a 62-ft-tall by 64-ft-wide, glass box structure, which will house a giant hanging whale skeleton.
The pavilion, named after a $13 million gift from the Otis Booth Foundation, will act as the main entrance to the museum, anchoring the North Campus. It will prominently exhibit one of the museum’s signature holdings, a 63-ft-long fin whale skeleton. The huge mammal will be a dramatic experience for visitors as they progress over the new whale-inspired pedestrian bridge, through the all-glass entrance into the museum.
As for exhibits, The NHM’s new Dinosaur Hall is one of the most extraordinary dinosaur exhibits in the world, and the premier dinosaur experience in the western United States. Inside are more than 300 real fossils, and 20 complete dinosaurs and ancient sea creatures. A centerpiece of the exhibit is the T-Rex growth series — the only trio of different aged T-Rex specimens in the world.
This exciting exhibit lets visitors see eye-to-eye with a Triceratops and walk under the neck of a 68-foot Mamenchisaurus. It also showcased 20 complete dinosaur and sea creature mounts that have either never been on display before, or have been re-posed according to the latest research. Many were discovered in the last several years by the Museum’s in-house Dinosaur Institute.
The Natural History Museum was the first dedicated museum building in Los Angeles, opening its in 1913. It has amassed one of the world’s most extensive and valuable collections of natural and cultural history—with more than 35 million objects, some as old as 4.5 billion years. The Natural History Family of Museums includes the NHM, the Page Museum at the La Brea Tar Pits (Hancock Park/Mid-Wilshire), and the William S. Hart Park and Museum (Newhall, California).
The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles is located at 900 Exposition Blvd. It is open daily 9:30 am to 5 pm. It is conveniently located next to two MetroLink Expo Line stops. For more information, call (213) 763-DINO or visit: www.nhm.org.