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U-M Museum Of Natural History Allowing Visitors For A (Partially) Post-Pandemic Prehistoric Tour

University of Michigan Museum of Natural History

The University of Michigan Museum of Natural History reopens to the public on a limited basis beginning Friday, June 25, 2021, following 15 months of closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Lisa Barry talks with museum director Amy Harris about the latest museum plans.


Lisa Barry: Another sign that life is returning to pre pandemic conditions is an announcement from the University of Michigan Museum of Natural History that it's reopening to the public on a limited basis beginning June 25th. I'm Lisa Barry. And from prehistoric to pre pandemic, I had to get that in there somehow. Well, we're joined by museum director Amy Harris. Amy,so good to talk to you.

Amy Harris: You really thought it's great to talk to you.

Lisa Barry: So what is the good news about the museum?

Amy Harris: Well, the good news about the museum is that we're reopening. It is on a limited basis, will be open on Fridays and Sundays in the afternoon starting this coming Friday, June 24th.

Lisa Barry: And how is that going to work? Well, people have to make reservations or can they just show up?

Amy Harris: Yes, we do require reservations. You can make a reservation on our website and or you can call our office and someone can help you. And we will be following whatever the protocols are that the university has at that time. So today we have our members and donors here and they are wearing masks and we are doing a health screening when they come in.

Lisa Barry: Do you think that will be in place for a while?

Amy Harris: I don't know. It seems like everything is changing so fast right here, just along for the ride right now.

Lisa Barry: So, for the past 15 months, what's been going on inside the University of Michigan Museum of Natural History?

Amy Harris: We've actually been pretty busy at the museum over the last 15 months. We were only fully open in our brand new museum for four months when the pandemic shut down. So we were actually still finishing our new museum project and we've been able to continue working on it while we're closed. It took a while because everything came to a complete halt, but we're back up and changing some of our exhibits and fixing things and completing some of the projects. So that's been really great.

Lisa Barry: What has recently been finished?

Amy Harris: We changed some of the the signage in one of our galleries to make a more visible and understandable to people. And visitors are giving us a good a lot of feedback on that today. We also have two beautiful new exhibits that were just installed. Very few people have seen them yet, and they're about indigenous baskets from the Great Lakes region.

Lisa Barry: Well, the beautiful new planetarium you recently created be open.

Amy Harris: It will be, but we don't have an opening date yet. We, of course, want to follow whatever the current guidance for COVID safety. But also our planetarium director, Matt Linky, has who's been with us for 32 years, is retiring.

Lisa Barry: Oh, that's big news.

Amy Harris: Big news!

Lisa Barry: I guess I did a feature on the museum and I met him and he was wonderful. So he's retiring at the end of this month,

Amy Harris: At the end of this month. And he's just been terrific. And we are at the end of our search to find a new planetarium manager to take his place. But that person is not starting July 1st. So they'll be a little bit of a gap in there. We all completed all the interviews and we are going to make a decision and make an offer very soon.

Lisa Barry: What else is new?

Amy Harris: We've just done a ton of virtual content. If you look at our website, we created a platform called Museum at Home, and it's chock full of all kinds of things to do and watch research that you can learn about that our students and faculty have been doing. And with our our programming online, we've been able to reach people even in other countries, which was really cool. So that's but we've learned some new things. Also, we have a 3-D exhibit that we created online where you can go in and and explore the space using the controls on your keyboard. And it's about whale evolution.

Lisa Barry: So some of these things that you pivoted to during the pandemic sounds like you're going to keep some of them in place once everything is reopened fully.

Amy Harris: Yes, we will be putting more of our exhibits online on a regular basis so that people can see them here on site and then also online after they're finished, you know, after we take them down so they'll have a longer life and and a broader reach. So that's a really exciting thing. Will probably also continue to offer some programs online so that we can reach people who otherwise wouldn't be able to come to the museum.

Lisa Barry: That's one positive. I think a lot of museums and organizations did widen their audience online during this time when people couldn't come in person.

Amy Harris: Yeah, it's been great. We’ve learned that there are really those two modes where we can welcome people to our site to touch. Well, not so much to touch things during COVID, but soon that'll happen again. But to see the real thing, to be able to touch things and be in the space is a wonderful, wonderful experience. But to be able to access what we have to offer online is also wonderful. So it's kind of both.

Lisa Barry: And to recap, the University of Michigan Museum of Natural History reopening June 25th. Registration is required. Enter through the museum's main entrance and complete the U of M health screening on the day of your visit. And you're good to go, right?

Amy Harris: That's absolutely right. We can't wait to see people come back. Today has been so much fun with our members and donors here seeing old friends and seeing how happy people are to be here. So we're just looking forward to having the public come in starting next Friday.

Lisa Barry: Amy Harris, museum director, thanks for talking to us here on WEMU.

Amy Harris: Thanks so much, Lisa. Take care.


The University of Michigan Museum of Natural History reopens to the public on a limited basis beginning Friday, June 25, 2021 following 15 months of closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

To ensure that everyone enjoys their visit and stays safe, the museum will start with limited hours, reduced capacity, and a timed-reservation system. The museum will require staff and visitors to wear a mask, practice social distancing, and follow established protocols regardless of vaccine status. Some activities and exhibit areas, including the planetarium, remain closed. The Museum Store will be open.

Admission for individuals and families is free but advance reservations are required.

“We are so excited to welcome visitors back into the museum,” said Amy Harris, director. “We hadn’t even been open a year in our beautiful new space when the pandemic forced us to close down. We were able to reach many people with virtual programs during the closure, but it’s not the same as seeing the awe in the eyes of children when they see the mastodons and dinosaurs for the first time.”

The museum will gradually expand hours of operation and occupancy in the weeks and months ahead. Visitors should confirm hours and protocols on the museum’s website (ummnh.org) prior to visiting. 

The museum is also offering both in-person and virtual science-focused summer camps for children who have completed grades K through 8. 

For those not ready for an in-person visit, the museum has a number of online offerings including Museum@Home, Virtual Exhibits, Virtual Planetarium Shows, and Virtual Field Trips.

U-M Museum of Natural History COVID-19 Protocol Highlights

  • Registration is required.
  • Enter through the museum’s main entrance—between the pumas—on the south side at the east end of the building.
  • Complete the U-M health screening on the day of your visit. Have the “completed” screen (or screenshot) ready to show.
  • Wear a face mask everywhere in the museum. Masks must cover the nose and mouth and fit snugly. No vented face coverings are permitted.
  • Maintain a social distance of at least one puma statue (six feet) from other visitors.
  • Please do not come to the museum if you or any member of your party feels unwell. Visitors showing signs of illness at the time of their visit will be asked to return at a later date.

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— Lisa Barry is the host of All Things Considered on WEMU. You can contact Lisa at 734.487.3363, on Twitter @LisaWEMU, or email her at lbarryma@emich.edu

Lisa Barry was a reporter, and host of All Things Considered on 89.1 WEMU.
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