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  January 29, 2001

Natural History Museum Opens at New Site

With the first stage of renovations complete, the Connecticut State Museum of Natural History is now partially open on the first floor of its new location next to Gampel Pavilion. An interactive exhibit about biodiversity, "In Our Backyards," is featured in the museum's small changing exhibit area.

"These are exciting times for the museum," says Ellen J. Censky, director. "We are thrilled to be in our new home and are also thankful to the University and our supporters who have sustained us for so long." The first phase of renovation was funded through UConn 2000.

"The museum's metamorphosis is a wonderful thing to observe," says President Philip E. Austin. "The museum's programs play a vital role in implementing our mission of service to all the people of our state and this prominent new location on campus provides it with the foundation needed to continue its development."

The major renovation project still lies ahead. The second phase will begin as soon as the museum has raised the $3.5 million in funding needed to complete a three-story addition to the front, a major exhibit area on the second floor, and a third-floor program space.

While under renovation, the museum continues to serve more than 70,000 people on and off campus annually.

Although it is just the first step, the new space makes it possible for the Museum to offer special workshops. The "In Our Backyards" exhibit offers visitors to campus, as well as members of the University community, the opportunity to take an intimate look at the role that biodiversity plays in everyday life. The exhibit was developed in collaboration with UConn faculty.

"Much of the Museum of Natural History's strength derives from its close ties to faculty, staff, and students at the University, says Kent Holsinger, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology and chair of the museum's board of directors.

The mission of the museum is to promote an understanding and appreciation of the natural and cultural world, especially as related to southern New England, and help the people of Connecticut think more critically about the environment and their role within it. The renovation and proposed future initiatives build on a tradition begun in 1985, when the museum was established by the state Legislature.

"We invite people to stop in to see what we have planned and share in our metamorphosis," says Censky.

The museum is open on weekdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and before basketball games, to serve those who come to campus early.

Carol Davidge

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