A Natural History Museum for the Future

July 14, 2018
A Natural History Museum for the Future


July 14, 2018
A Natural History Museum for the Future

A new world-class destination arrives–the new Bell Museum opens.


G&A has been working with the Bell Museum in St. Paul for over three years to create a vision for a natural history museum for the future. On the campus of the University of Minnesota, the reimagined exhibits by G&A take visitors on a journey from the creation of the universe to Minnesota’s own unique habitats. With an emphasis on relevance for visitors and a goal of engagement, the exhibit designs are meant to demonstrate that the story of the universe is really the story of “you.”

Photo Credit: Duncan R Miller

Community Engagement


Over the course of the project, G&A developed a close working relationship with the community. From the beginning, the public was apprehensive about relocating the historic and beloved Francis Lee Jaques dioramas; the thought of moving and reinterpreting the unique collection stirred up public emotions and concern. G&A’s commitment to addressing the concerns resulted in a design that features the collection of dioramas in meaningful ways.


Patrick Gallagher, President and Principal remarked, “The reinvented Bell Museum will set a new benchmark for what a museum can be in terms of community participation and engagement, as well as interpretation of the natural sciences and the arts.” He added, “The new designs fully incorporate the historic dioramas as anchor points throughout the Museum’s exhibits to pull visitors literally into the landscape and the storytelling. People are also invited to appreciate the dioramas as the great works of art they are.”


Stewardship of the natural world


Sujit Tolat, G&A Principal and Executive Director of the Singapore office started the project with an integrated approach to natural history, astrophysical science, and the University of Minnesota’s research: “We wanted the exhibits to foster inclusion and a sense of personal engagement that inspires curiosity, delight and informed stewardship of the natural world.” He continued, “Our exhibit designs have to be relevant to the next generations, encourage learning and motivate participation in ongoing research.” The new Bell Museum will provide a showcase for University research and an expanded training ground for undergraduates preparing for careers in science education.


Hands-on learning


New experiences both inside and outside the Museum now feature digital and hands-on activities that invite visitors to explore the sciences in unconventional ways. Jamie Rains, Senior Designer for G&A also noted, “We were delighted to combine digital soundscapes and other state-of-the-art interpretation techniques with old favorites—from a revised layout and new presentations of the historic and beloved dioramas to a re-imagined Touch and See Lab experience.”


Cascading through time and the universe to present day Minnesota where diverse biomes are the product of the glacial sweeps of the ice age, the Bell Museum’s exhibits cover a variety of topics and still house the world renown wildlife dioramas.


The new Museum will be a transformative landmark, not just in Minneapolis, but in the region, as a world-class destination where people and communities come together, forge new partnerships and enjoy the sciences, history, and the arts.