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FAQs

Reinventing NHM as a 21st Century Museum We have restored and renovated the 1913 Building and delivered two extraordinary and critically acclaimed museum exhibitions, as well as an all-around improved visitor experience, making NHM a unique and exhilarating destination. 

Status Report: NHM's Transformation

What is the status of your transformation so far?
  • We're almost done! Two crucial portions of the 1913 Building re-opened in July 2010: The north wing, housing the building's extraordinary Age of Mammals exhibit, and the historic Haaga Family Rotunda, featuring two new installation spaces. In July of 2011, the groundbreaking Dinosaur Hall opened to great acclaim. In June 2013 the Otis Booth Pavilion, Nature Gardens, and Nature Lab opened to the public, and Becoming LA, a permanent exhibit on Los Angeles, opened in July. We also added visitor amenities such as a new café, car park, and pedestrian bridge, as well as re-furbished elevators, shops, and restrooms.
  • Becoming Los Angeles, an exploration of how nature and culture interacted to form L.A., opened in July, 2013. On the north side of the Museum, the Nature Gardens, a 3 1/2-acre urban wilderness garden, opened in June, 2013. The gardens provide nature-themed experiences and education opportunities.
  • The Nature Lab, the indoor counterpart to the outdoor North Campus, also opened in June of 2013. It is a place where people of all ages can participate in science activities that explore the biodiversity encountered outside.
  • The Otis Booth Pavilion, funded by a gift from the Otis Booth Foundation, opened in 2013 as part of NHM's centennial celebration. The spectacular glass entry pavilion beckons visitors through the new north entrance and connects the Museum?s interior to the new gardens. The Pavilion houses one of our most prized specimens, the 63-foot fin whale skeleton.
  • A new hall for temporary exhibitions will expand NHM's reach beyond our collections. This will draw visitors to NHM for an ongoing stream of new experiences and knowledge, and connect NHM to an international circuit of partner institutions by hosting their exhibitions. The American Museum of Natural History's acclaimed Silk Road will be the first exhibit in this new space.
Tell me about some of your new programs.

Broadening the scope of the visitor experience, the Museum has also enhanced its existing series - including First Fridays, Sustainable Sundays, and B-Movies and Bad Science - and created new programming, such as expanded Critter Clubs (weekend events for 3-5 year olds) and an upcoming science-themed lecture series.

Building on the success of Dinosaur Encounters, in which life-sized dinosaur puppets - inhabited by human puppeteers - thrill audiences, the Museum has added a saber-toothed cat to its stable of performers in the new Ice Age Encounters program.

Campaign Goals

What is the overall goal of the transformation?

Our goal was to transform NHM into a 21st century museum by:

  • Connecting visitors to our vast and outstanding collections by using our specimens to translate science into narratives about the history of our planet.
  • Engaging visitors of all ages in the excitement of the scientific process.
  • Deploying new technologies to promote discovery and learning.
  • Increasing opportunities for the public to make new discoveries by presenting new ideas and specimens, and through bringing rotating exhibitions into the Museum.
  • Expanding how our visitors think about and experience our ecosystem.
  • Creating a hub for citizen scientists to use Museum resources for study and experimentation stimulating a dialogue about the future of our planet, and our role in caring for it.
  • Claiming our rightful place as one of L.A.'s premier cultural institutions with a unique role in launching our next generation of scientists and thinkers.
How will this renovation make the overall visitor experience better?
  • With new gallery designs, we doubled the number of the Museum's 35 million specimens and objects on public view.
  • New galleries include dynamic interpretive methods including multi-media kiosks and layered content, so that the visitor experience is always fresh and changing.
  • In the past, the work of the Museum's scientists and historians was under-recognized, taking place largely behind closed doors. We have a new charge to connect the visitor experience with the research and discoveries of our staff. We are de-mystifying science, showing it in action. We hope to better convey our relevance in research and scholarship. We also hope to inspire a future generation of scientists.
  • Now that the North Campus is complete, the Museum has become a true indoor/outdoor experience for visitors. Visitors move back and forth between indoor collections and science topics and an outdoor environment where plants and animals are interpreted in a living context.
  • As the Museum's popular indoor programming gains outdoor components, we are developing a new slate of "citizen science" projects, allowing Museum scientists and visitors to collaborate on surveys, experiments, and long-term findings.
  • Our improvements and upgrades to basic visitor amenities include "green" bathrooms, more seating, a new café and two new shops.
  • The Museum has a strong street presence with more welcoming orientation spaces, improved wayfinding and ADA access. Our new north entrance also creates access points near the new light rail stations, which bring new audiences to Exposition Park and alleviate parking stresses.
  • Inside and out, 258,000 square feet of the Museum's public space has been renovated and improved.

NHM Funding Overview

NHM is a Los Angeles County institution. What is the level of support provided by the County? Why does the Museum need to raise private funds?
  • The County and the Natural History Museum (NHM) have a public/private partnership formalized by a funding agreement that was renegotiated in 2007. It will be in force for the next 75 years. County support is approximately 45% of the Museum's annual operating budget.
  • The County owns most of the collections as well as the building. Private funds support Museum programs and such as exhibitions, scientific discoveries and research, School Visits, education outreach, First Fridays, Dinosaur Encounters, and Ice Age Encounters. Currently, these programs serve more than one million people per year, onsite and in the community, including 200,000 schoolchildren free of charge.
  • County and State support for NHM Next priorities total $45 million. The building infrastructure including the seismic retrofit has been made possible by this government support.
  • New exhibits and programs are made possible by private contributions that will total $90 million in support.
This is NHM's first comprehensive campaign. With heavy competition in a challenging economy, how is fundraising going?
  • By June 2013, the Museum raised $110 million, 81% of the $135 million goal of the NHM Next Campaign.
  • Our Trustees and major donors have made leadership contributions that have brought the Campaign this far, and many plan to make additional gifts as the Campaign concludes.
  • The Museum has long-term relationships with important California foundations and corporations as well as thousands of individual donors and members, all of whom are invited to participate in the Campaign.
  • In 2011, the Museum received a $7 million grant under State Proposition 84, the largest awarded.
  • Trustee, foundation, and government support provides a firm basis for the NHM Next Campaign, but generous support from individuals is crucial to the successful transformation of the Natural History Museum.
You are asking for a major gift from me... who else is supporting you? Is the Board participation 100%?
  • The Board has achieved 100% participation in the Campaign.
  • We have a total of $65 million in private support, including gifts from Trustees, other individuals, corporations and foundations. To date, including public and private support, we have raised $110 million dollars.

Questions About My Support

I don't give to bricks and mortar...

We are fortunate to have a building that is both an architectural and a civic gem. Blessed with this new space, we have transformed our approach to exhibits. We display extraordinary specimens, but then go further, also exploring the ways that scientists discover, excavate, and research these specimens.

Rather than create a new facility, our project has transformed the galleries that form the foundation for our programs. Programmatic changes include greater interactive learning and educational enhancements that serve visitors with diverse backgrounds, language needs, and learning styles. With this approach, we take a leading role in inspiring stewardship for our planet.

You're not building a new facility, but for a transformation of this scope there must be architects and designers involved. Who are they?

The renovations and new master plan are led by CO Architects and principal Jorge de la Cal and Cordell Corporation led by its president Don Webb, with Matt Construction. The new exhibits in the renovated galleries are the responsibility of Dr. Karen Wise, Vice President of Exhibits and Public Programs, who is working with a slate of world-class exhibit design firms. The landscape designer for the North Campus is Mia Lehrer and Associates.

I love the dioramas and other "historic" parts of the museum. Will I still be able to see them?

The dioramas and their backgrounds, painted by Work Projects Administration (WPA) artists in the 1930s, are registered in historic landmarks lists and are consequently protected by law. Therefore, the beloved dioramas will remain, but we update them constantly with new specimens and labels that incorporate the latest scientific research. The dioramas are a vital part of the Museum's history and education mission. With an on-staff muralist and taxidermist, the Natural History Museum has the only active, ongoing diorama program in the country.

Does this impact the Page Museum at the La Brea Tar Pits?

The physical transformation of our Exposition Park facility will not affect the Page Museum, but the philosophical transformation certainly has an impact. We have expanded our family and adult programming at the Page Museum and its grounds. We have also worked to heighten the profile of the relevant scientific work engaging Page researchers.

Most recently, Page scientists have been focused on the astonishing new discoveries at the tar pits, revealed when the Los Angeles County Museum of Art excavated its new underground parking structure. These discoveries double the size of the Museum's Pleistocene Era collection, including a rare mammoth, one of the largest ever found. We are making strides to communicate the connections, programmatic and scientific, between the Page Museum at the La Brea Tar Pits and the Natural History Museum in Exposition Park.

I can make one gift... would you like it for the Annual Fund or for the NHM Next Campaign?

Both will be essential to our growth and ongoing success. We encourage donors to think about their NHM Next Campaign gifts as special, long-term investments and as gifts, payable over a period of years, which come from assets. On the other hand, annual gifts are those that can be made from income. We also ask donors to consider bequest gifts, which will help build our endowment to secure the future of the Museum.

Why Give to NHM Now?

Other Los Angeles museums are actively soliciting for their campaigns. How is the Natural History Museum able to compete? What makes it so unique?

We have the most diverse visitors of any cultural institution in Los Angeles. We do not reach a particular demographic; we reach the entire city.

  • History, and a unique institutional legacy, is on our side. As we celebrate our 100th anniversary in 2013, more generations of Angelenos have enjoyed our historic dioramas, special exhibitions and programming than at any other Southern California museum or attraction.
  • We are the preeminent natural history institution in Southern California and a vital participant in the cultural life of the entire region. Nowhere else in Los Angeles can visitors find similar specimens, programs and resources for learning about the nature around them and the planet at large.
  • No other museum in the Western United States offers our unique "big picture" perspective, exploring change and evolution over 4.5 billion years with evidence provided by more than 35 million specimens.
  • No other museum in the U.S. offers an indoor/outdoor experience, in which research, collections, and living science experiments converge.
Will this transformation result in a larger audience at NHM?

The physical improvements are only one component of our transformation-over the past several years the Museum has developed plans for the complete re-envisioning of our position as one of the region's foremost cultural institutions. The Board of Trustees has committed itself to a long range strategic plan that includes significant audience development and marketing initiatives.

Based on current research, our NHM Next plans include:

  • Creating a program of temporary exhibitions to encourage repeat visitors, but retaining iconic exhibitions like the diorama halls that are a hallowed part of the permanent Museum experience.
  • Anticipating a dramatic 50% increase in School Visits (currently 200,000 schoolchildren visit free of charge). The Museum provides a memory-making field trip for children, but the Museum is also a valuable resource for their teachers. We provide free lesson plans and tours that meet the State's Board of Education curriculum standards.
  • Targeting more than one million annual visitors now that the new galleries opened in 2013, marking an almost 100% increase in attendance since 2009. We are on track to meet this goal: Since mid-2010, attendance is up over 40%.
Why should I make NHM a philanthropic priority?

We are finishing an ambitious slate of permanent exhibition openings. Media coverage, subsequent critical acclaim, and a higher advertising profile have resulted in spiking attendance numbers. We have momentum and visibility. The transformation is underway.

This is a unique opportunity to take a leadership position in Museum accessibility and education for the broader public. Over the last 100 years we have touched generations of Southern Californians, and it is our responsibility to ensure that future generations experience the natural world and the special access to scientific inquiry the Museum provides.

Unlike other museum campaigns, this effort is not just about new exhibitions and buildings. Within those new physical spaces and visitor experiences, there is something else afoot. The Museum is becoming a crucial hub of inquiry and conversation; it provides expertise and informed insights on some of the most pressing challenges of our time. Our transformation gives us the power to spark the minds of future scientists and inspire stewardship for the planet.