University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler is recommending increased investment in the new Bell Museum of Natural History and Planetarium on the university's St. Paul campus. Here is an excerpt of his July 25, 2015 letter to project supporters:
"The initial designs emphasized visitor impact--and rightly so. They served to generate meaningful discussion about what needs or interests a $57.5 million budget could provide, a budget that was supported by state funding, private funding, and a designation I recently made of donor funds. It was great work. I was confident it would lead to a facility with great visitor impact. But it was not enough.
Therefore, in order to address opportunities that should be at the forefront of the design and construction, I am prepared to recommend to the Board of Regents in September a project budget of $64.225 million, which represents an increase of $6,725,000 over the original budget of $57.5 million. In order to finance this larger project budget, we will first maximize the $3.5 million in recurring state appropriations made available by the Minnesota Legislature. Any additional resources needed to meet the new project budget will come from University funds. That allows the project to:
• Increase the size of the permanent exhibit space;
• Add basement space and provide for some exhibit support and mechanical support to be re-located from the first floor to the basement--allowing first floor space to be used for offices;
• Provide some shelled space for either permanent exhibits or meeting rooms on the second floor;
• Provide another 2,000 square feet of unfinished space adjacent to the planned 3,000 square feet of temporary exhibit space that could be used to expand the temporary exhibit space, for banquet or meeting space, or for storage or exhibit support; and
• Provide support space for catering purposes--specifically warming ovens and a cooler.
These changes would be incorporated into the plans moving forward, subject to approval by the Board of Regents.
With these additions, the elements that are either necessary for the success of the museum or that would be difficult or impossible to add later (such as a basement) are addressed now, are funded now, and will proceed into design and construction immediately--without regard to additional private fundraising. We anticipate that by moving forward now with this enhanced budget and design, our private partners will be inspired to invest funds in this once in a lifetime opportunity--not only to finish the shelled space or some other aspects of the facility, but to address the capacity to operate and market the museum to assure the fulfillment of its educational outreach vision."
The Advisory Board has thanked President Kaler for the additional support--calling it truly exciting and wonderful. Board members will meet later this week to develop a formal response.
A sketch of the building looking toward the southwest
A sketch of second floor exhibit space and landscape views
A sketch of the lobby as set for an evening event
Here are the community members who have stepped forward to guide the museum.
View the Advisory Board's short-term goals for the museum.
Read the 1872 legislation that created our museum and mission. If you are curious about our dioramas—their history, why they are so useful and important, and their role in the new museum—read our FAQs about the Bell Museum dioramas.
This public museum needs your involvement and creativity.