At long last, Bell Museum gets money for new building

Author:
Updated:
Original:

Supporters of the Bell Museum of Natural History at the University of Minnesota have been campaigning for years for state funding to build a new facility. That request was finally fulfilled on the last day of the just-ended legislative session, awaiting only Gov. Dayton's signature to make it a reality. The Bell Museum houses some 4 million specimens of animals, birds, plants, insects and other species that are studied by University of Minnesota faculty and students. Thousands of school children every year take field trips to the museum to learn more about Minnesota's natural history. But the museum building is deteriorating, according to staff. It's 75 years old and its 75-year old plumbing, electrical and heating systems frequently break down. The basement floods, it has mold and rodent problems, and dramatic swings in temperature and humidity are threatening to do damage to the collections housed in the building, they say. The Bell Museum board has proposed a new $51.5 million museum be built on the U of M's St. Paul campus, to be combined with a new planetarium to replace one that was part of the old Minneapolis Central Library, but was razed along with that building in 2002. The project was left off the university's bonding "wish list" this session, but it's been a top priority for State Rep. Alice Hausman, DFL-St. Paul, who helped broker the construction bills. So she and other lawmakers devised a creative legislative solution that will fund construction of the new museum, according to Politics in Minnesota. The project is covered in a separate bill, which says the University of Minnesota will let the bonds for the $51.5 million museum proposal, but the state will essentially repay the debt. To make that happen, lawmakers added $3.5 million each year in extra state aid to the U, from 2016 to 2041, to fund the project’s debt service. In the waning days of the session, advocates of the new Bell Museum had urged supporters to contact their lawmakers and ask them to support the project. Here are some of the reasons they cited.

1. STEM education and closing the achievement gap cannot wait another two years—an estimated 350,000 Twin Cities area jobs require STEM education, and that number will grow. 2. We are Minnesota-centric, not metro-centric. The Bell Museum and Planetarium has a statewide impact on K12 education through our MNSCU planetarium network, our Minnesota History of the Land Videos, our traveling exhibits, high school curriculum, and environmental residency programs. 3. The State’s Natural History Museum and Planetarium has a statewide impact by supporting Minnesota environmental organizations like Master Naturalists, Minnesota Ornithologists, Minnesota Audubon and Minnesota Native Plants Society with scientific collections and adult education programs. 4. We are turning away over 4,000 students annually because the school groups are too large for our current building. We no longer host the annual Beekeepers conference because it outgrew our capacity.

Now that the money has been allocated, the planning and design process will get underway in earnest. Museum officials are hoping to break ground in the spring of 2015.

Next Up

covid-19, coronavirus, PPE

Nov. 29 COVID-19 update: 57 deaths, nearly 9,000 more cases

Nearly 100,000 tests were included in Sunday's report.

jim ramstad

Watch former Rep. Jim Ramstad's memorial service online

The ceremony will be live-streamed for the public on Sunday.

EDL1LeKXsAEeH32

How high can Rashod Bateman go in the 2021 NFL Draft?

The Gophers star receiver has plenty of praise heading into next April.

TCF Bank Stadium

15 more from Gopher football team test positive for COVID-19

That brings the total number of cases from this outbreak to 40.

Teddy Bridgewater

5 questions for Vikings-Panthers Week 12 NFC battle

The Vikings welcome Teddy Bridgewater back to U.S. Bank Stadium on Sunday.

police lights

Shelter-in-place in Albert Lea after police officer shot in the chest

The officer was able to drive to an emergency room.

En-KfRaXEAEbuE7

St. Paul officer shoots man who got out of dumpster, ran towards police

A report says the man was naked and had a steak knife.

Screen Shot 2020-11-28 at 6.58.11 PM

Gophers dominate second half to defeat Loyola-Marymount

Marcus Carr scored 26 to send the Gophers to 2-0.

Ambulance hospital emergency

Kandiyohi Co. man airlifted after hand caught in corn picker

Corn pickers are a common cause of farm accidents.

White tail deer

DNR: Passenger shot at deer out of driver's side window

The DNR said 'all sense of safety was disregarded.'

Related