Cleveland Museum of Natural History continues its five-year expansion project

"Birds, Beasts, Brats & Beer” Fundraiser

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The Cleveland Museum of Natural History (CMNH) has recently commenced its Centennial Campaign, a five-year, $150 million project to expand and transform the museum’s current campus. The project is divided into three phases, with the projected total completion targeted for 2020, the museum’s 100-year anniversary.

Prep for the first phase began in March of this year, while the actual breaking of ground took place this past June. The highlights of this phase are a new Perkins Wildlife Center & Woods Garden, a three-story parking garage and a new West Garden. The museum expects this phase to be completed by late spring of next year.

Some of the most prominent changes to the Perkins will include the new “Forest Walk,” an elevated canopy walk through the grounds, and “Animal Walkways,” tubular mesh walkways that will hang over the heads of visitors and be frequented by bobcats, red foxes, raccoons and coyotes.

Additionally, the Perkins will now house an aviary and an expanded otter pond and amphitheater. The new Perkins will open to the public in spring 2016.

The other prominent first-phase expansion, the new West Garden, will showcase the Viktor Schreckengost sculptures of a mammoth and mastodon, which were removed from the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo in 2008.

Schreckengost, who passed away in 2008 at the age of 101, was one of Cleveland’s most beloved artists. He taught at the nearby Cleveland Institute of Art for 70 years and was one of the country’s top industrial designers, churning out affordable items (like lawn chairs and dinnerware) during the Depression.

He was also flown to Europe on secret missions during World War II, where he improved the radar technology used in the Battle of the Bulge. He would also later design prosthetics for wounded soldiers.

Schreckengost’s 59-year-old iconic statues have come full circle now, returning to the museum that, at the time of the statues’ creation, managed the zoo.

Case Western Reserve University art history professor Henry Adams told The Plain Dealer, “It’s great that [the statues] are being preserved. Fifty years is kind of a danger point. Usually when something’s been around for 100 years, you think of it as worth preserving—but 50 years, you can lose these things.”

Beyond the superficial expansion—from 212,000 to 290,000-square-feet—and glistening renovations, the CMNH is hoping to strengthen its roots to nature and expand upon its educational resources by doubling the number of museum classrooms.

According to CMNH Executive Director and CEO Evalyn Gates, the vision for the new CMNH “is beautiful, striking and will create the presence on Wade Oval that will say to the community, ‘Science and nature are important to our region and future.’”

For those feeling nostalgic, the museum is holding its annual “Birds, Beasts, Brats & Beer” fundraiser at the old Perkins. This will be the last opportunity to enjoy the old center before the new one opens in spring.

The event is for those 21 and over, and it will feature animal encounters, training demonstrations and hourly activities featuring several of the Perkins’ inhabitants. Ticket price include a drink ticket, food and entertainment, and proceeds will go to providing for the museum’s animals.

Event: “Birds, Beasts, Brats & Beer” Fundraiser
Location: Cleveland Museum of Natural History
Date: Friday, Aug. 21 from 5:30-10 p.m.
Price: $35 at the door