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The Cleveland Museum of Natural History

Updated on August 7, 2010
The Cleveland Museum of Natural History
The Cleveland Museum of Natural History

Situated clockwise around Wade Oval to the north of The Cleveland Museum of Art is The Cleveland Museum of Natural History.

The first natural history collection in the city consisted of two rooms of a small wooden structure at Cleveland’s Public Square of the 1830s, crowded with a wide variety of animal specimens. It was affectionately termed ‘the Ark’. The Cleveland Museum of Natural History was founded in 1920, to better serve the research, conservation and education aims of the Ark’s collectors and proponents. The Museum now occupies a brick structure fronting onto Wade Oval (5 miles from its original Public Square location), with the conical metal form of the Shafran Planetarium evident to the right of its main entrance. To the left of the structure stands a life-size cast Stegosaurus for one and all to pet or ride.

The Museum’s most distinctive element is its Hamann-Todd Osteological Collection — the world’s largest and most valued collection of skeletons of non-human primates and modern humans. It includes a permanent exhibit of Lucy, our 3.2-million-year-old ancestor, Australopithecus afarensis. Other exhibits include a full size T. rex, an outdoor gallery of several acres of indigenous Ohio flora and fauna, the world’s oldest sauropod on display at 70 feet in length, and a gallery of more than 1,500 gems and minerals.

Encompassing 11 natural science fields from archaeology through vertebrate zoology, the Museum of Natural History’s collection totals over 5 million specimens and artifacts. In addition, the Museum, through its Natural Areas Division, protects over 4,500 acres of rare natural habitats throughout northeast Ohio, preserving and restoring their biodiversity.

The Museum counts over 7,300 northern Ohioans among its members, and sees over a quarter million visitors each year. To area schools, it offers more than 140 public education programs, including its popular planetarium shows, participatory observatory, and its Smead Discovery Center, with hands-on experiential activities for the young. The Museum also makes its facilities available for special events — weddings, corporate events, fundraisers, receptions and sit-down dinner parties.

To address its future needs for growth and change, the Museum in 2007 enlisted the Denver architectural firm of Fentress Architects, Ltd. to plan an expansion and renovation, and has since enlisted a Boston-based exhibits and display designer as well.  

A marker1 Wade Oval, Cleveland, Ohio -
Wade Oval Dr, Cleveland, OH 44106, USA
get directions

Spend a day browsing all of the great arts institutions, gardens and museums of University Circle.


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