Visitors sketch specimens in Collections Cove

2019 Report to the Community

July 1, 2018–June 30, 2019


When Minnesota legislators called for a state museum of natural history in 1872, they proved their smart and innovative thinking about the enduring role of nature to our wellbeing as a people and a state. Our research is at the forefront of describing and explaining environmental change and biodiversity, our scientific collections are more active and accessible than ever, and we are delivering educational programs in communities across the state.

And, then… there’s the new Bell Museum facility that opened in summer 2018. Our inspiring new exhibits, stunning Whitney and Elizabeth MacMillan Planetarium, and beautiful Learning Landscape are providing unprecedented opportunities for engagement with the natural world.

In our first year, 230,942 people visited the new Bell Museum—up from an average of 37,000 at our previous location. We are especially delighted to see the busloads of school-aged children arriving at our doorsteps each morning. A Bell visit is known to launch a lifetime passion for nature—and many science-related careers, too!

For many children, their Bell visit is also their first interaction with the University of Minnesota. Opportunities to talk with University students and researchers open their minds to the role of science in our world, the diversity of people involved in research, the process (and fun!) of discovery, and how much we need their good thinking and active involvement to create a brighter future for our state and world.

Our future is dependent on EVERYONE having equitable access to the museum’s resources, and we are proud to represent an organization deeply committed to inclusion and diversity through access memberships and admission programs, a strong community advisory board, a committed team of staff and volunteers, and generous University and community partners.

The natural world is an important part of our heritage in Minnesota, and it’s a vital part of our future. Thank you for carrying forward the vision of the Bell Museum for this and future generations.


Denise Young headshot
Denise Young's signature
Denise Young, Ed.D.
Executive Director, Bell Museum
College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences
University of Minnesota

Brian Buhr headshot
Brian Buhr's signature
Brian Buhr, Ph.D.
Dean, College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences
University of Minnesota

A young visitor pointing at our woolly mammoth, and the line waiting outside the Bell's grand opening celebration

Grand Opening

We opened the new Bell Museum with an enthusiastic element of uncertainty. Every Minnesotan made this possible but would they come for an afternoon, or two?

The answer was a resounding YES! Bell staff, faculty curators, volunteers, and University partners were thrilled to see the level of excitement, engagement, and wonder from visitors of all ages. Whether it was University students, grandparents and grandchildren, school children on field trips, old friends, new friends — everyone found a way to connect at the Bell. Visitors connected with Minnesota’s tremendous natural resources on display on the Learning Landscape, sketching in the galleries, or collaborating to solve some of today’s greatest challenges in Solution Studio.

The results are in, and the new Bell Museum is back like never before.

Visitors looking at dioramas in our Minnesota Journeys exhibit

Welcome to the Bell at its Best

During our first year, the Bell welcomed new exhibits, debuted four original planetarium productions, hosted evening events that connected the arts and sciences, and launched several STEM festivals, to name just a few of our activities.

We also were proud to support University of Minnesota graduate students in their research efforts, because the Bell is, at its core, a place where discoveries come to life.

Our faculty curators also engaged in new research, while expanding access to the Bell’s own collections of 1.2 million specimens through the expansive digital content in the Minnesota Biodiversity Atlas. The Bell was also pleased to expand our curatorial and research staff.

We can’t wait to share what next year will bring at the Bell Museum!

Bell by the Numbers

Revenue and expenses charts

“We are excited to support the Bell Museum. The Bell Museum connects urban consumers with a historical and modern look at agricultural and natural resources. They know just how to engage the inquisitive minds of attendees and stimulate a new way of looking at everyday issues.”
—Farm and Food Alliance of Minnesota, donors to Solution Studio and Imagine the Future Gallery

Donor Appreciation

Click here for our FY2019 donor roster.

The Bell Museum is proud to recognize the philanthropic investments made by individuals, corporations, and foundations received between July 1, 2018–June 30, 2019. We have made every effort to ensure that the names of donors are correct. This list includes donors making gifts of $250+. If you have questions about your gift, please contact Hannah Baines here or at 612-626-2673.

New Beginnings: Highlights from the Year


Summer 2018
Beginning in June,  the Bell welcomes K-8 STEM summer campers into the new building as the first visitors. This expanded program now serves 820 children!


The grand opening crowd in Horizon Hall

July 14 – 15
The Bell Museum opens its doors to more than 5,500 visitors on opening weekend, and the Bell Museum’s original planetarium production Minnesota in the Cosmos opens to the public. Watch the video about our grand opening on our YouTube page!