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U of M Bell Museum, Minnesota Planetarium Society to integrate programming, operations

September 15, 2011

The University of Minnesota Bell Museum of Natural History and Minnesota Planetarium Society (MNPS) have agreed to integrate their programming and operations at the Bell Museum.

“This agreement provides a strong foundation for the award winning ExploraDome program,” says Susan Weller, executive director of the Bell Museum. “It ensures the program will continue to inspire and educate children and adults statewide, and it will increase the opportunities to use the ExploraDome’s immersive visualization technology for undergraduate education and faculty research. The agreement also strengthens Minnesota’s regional network of eight planetariums.”

A number of factors brought the Bell Museum and MNPS together in discussions that began a year ago. First, both organizations have a successful history of providing enhanced classroom programming in science education to K-12 schools. Second, the ExploraDome’s visualization technology will give university faculty additional opportunities to support the emerging field of visualizing scientific research, as well as evaluating the technology’s applications in educational settings. Third, there is growing recognition of the importance of a strong, multifaceted approach to science education to support Minnesota’s business community.

The Bell Museum and MNPS also share a need for updated facilities, and both have struggled to address those needs. “The economy and resulting softness in charitable giving, cancellation of the bonds for a new planetarium, and two vetoes of bonding for a new Bell Museum building all require that we develop a new vision for science education delivery and facilities,” Weller says. “It is premature to discuss facilities, but our supporters and I are committed to engaging our Minnesota stakeholders and university community to develop an expanded vision for their state natural history museum that includes the role of our planetary history in shaping our natural world.”

There is no timetable for proposing a new building for the combined programs, but the university has a well-established process for prioritizing future renovation and construction projects.

As a result of the integration, the Minnesota Planetarium Society will cease public operations as of Sept. 30. The organization’s assets were formally transferred to the Bell Museum Sept. 12. The Bell Museum will honor pre-existing bookings and agreements for the MNPS’ ExploraDome program.

More information about the Bell Museum’s programs, including the ExploraDome, can be found at www.bellmuseum.org.

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The University of Minnesota Bell Museum of Natural History and Minnesota Planetarium Society (MNPS) have agreed to integrate their programming and operations at the Bell Museum.

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