Bell Museum to move to St. Paul

The museum has been located on the Minneapolis campus since it opened in 1940.

Sam Boeser

The Bell Museum of Natural History is moving to the St. Paul campus, said Nina Shepherd, director of media and public relations for the museum.

The Bell Museum has been located on the East Bank campus since its opening in 1940, but now some say a change is necessary.

Different issues have prompted the push for a new, larger facility for the museum.

The 3,000-square-foot special exhibits gallery is too small to accommodate most traveling exhibits, according to a fact sheet Shepherd compiled. The museum hopes to attract more traveling exhibits with a new building.

The current building also lacks basic amenities such as air conditioning in public spaces and spacious galleries and reception areas.

The move to St. Paul would unite the museum with the University’s pioneers in environmental research, the fact sheet said.

The College of Biological Sciences, the College of Natural Resources and the College of Agricultural, Food and Environmental Sciences are all located on the St. Paul campus, along with most of the offices for the museum’s academic staff.

Still, some said they dislike the idea of moving the museum from Minneapolis to St. Paul.

“Some regulars are kind of upset because they like the layout and the history this building has,” said Katie Schwartz, a health sciences sophomore and museum employee.

Others echo that sentiment and have grown attached to the distinct look and design of the Minneapolis building.

“The building is just really, really cool,” said Crystal Wallace, a fifth-year biology student and museum guide.

But Shepherd noted the museum is smaller than other museums of its kind in both classroom and teaching space, something that will affect how the new building is designed.

The museum gets most of its student visitors during science class trips. Otherwise, many elementary school students and families visit the museum.

“We come about three or four times a year,” said Nick Taylor, who was at the museum with his son, Nico Taylor. “I like the art work and dioramas. He likes petting and seeing the snakes.”

The museum is planning to relocate many of the exhibits currently on display in Minneapolis to the new location in St. Paul. Some will remain on permanent display at the new location.

University Services will decide what to do with the Bell Museum’s current building before it heads to St. Paul.

The new facility will cost approximately $32 million, according to the fact sheet. Part of that will be funded with the $415,000 Congress gave the museum as part of a larger bill Nov. 20.

The money from Congress will be used to complete exhibit plans, drawings and schedules, as well as to prepare the site for outside exhibits and a master education plan for the museum.

The museum project is currently in the predesign phase of construction, which is the first step in the process. An architect for the building is expected to be announced early next year.