The Cleveland Museum of Natural History introduced a new Wade Oval entrance in 2022 as part of its $150 million transformation project. Photographs by Eric Eakin

The new Visitor Hall exhibit spaces showcase returning icons like Happy in a whole new light.

By Cynthia Schuster Eakin
For more than a hundred years, the Cleveland Museum of Natural History has inspired a passion for science and nature. Its current transformation and expansion will allow for more visitors than ever before.
The museum recently unveiled its’ new Visitor Hall, a dramatic 14,650-square-foot space with ceilings that soar to 21 feet and specimens placed along a timeline that reflects milestones in the history of the universe.
The Cleveland Museum of Natural History opened part of its transformed campus in 2022, introducing a new Wade Oval Entrance, modernized Education Wing and updated galleries. This opening is the latest milestone in the museum’s $150 million project.
“The museum has always been a valuable resource to our city, our region and the world,” Sonia Winner, Cleveland Museum of Natural History President and CEO said. “We are excited to celebrate the return of our museum’s most beloved specimens in a community space that is free to all visitors. This is an exciting milestone in our transformation that has been in the making for 20 years. We now have a little more than a year until we unveil the museum’s new wings and the completely reimagined exhibits that will put our guests at the center of the experience. The best is yet to come!”
Winner noted that the Cleveland Museum of Natural History ranks among the top 10 natural history museums in the United States in terms of endowment, size of collection and attendance. She said that it welcomes 100,000 visitors a year and 70,000 students. “This museum reflects the story of life, with all of its beauty and fragility. This new space will allow us to reach out to even more young people,” she said.
Winner is spearheading a complete reimagining of the museum’s campus and exhibits in a way that highlights the interconnectedness of all life on Earth. Many of the museum’s returning icons are showcased in a new way.
The museum’s iconic sauropod, Haplocanthosaurusdelfsi, affectionately known as Happy, has been remounted by Research Casting International, a paleontological conservator in Ontario, Canada. Happy was originally mounted with its tail touching the floor, but now reflects recent research indicating that dinosaurs were more likely to hold their tails above ground. There is also a new showcase area for Lucy, the world-famous, 3.2-million-year-old partial fossil skeleton discovered in Ethiopia in 1974 by Dr. Donald Johanson, a former curator at the museum. The museum’s moon rock is on long-term loan from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Specimens from the Jeptha Homer Wade II Collection of Gems and Jewels, a historical collection of faceted gemstones from around the world, includes specimens such as a jade necklace, Mississippi River pearls, opals and colored diamonds. A dramatic window of butterflies reminds guests of the beauty of nature and the museum’s important invertebrate zoology collection.
The redesigned exhibits were developed by Gallagher and Associates (G&A) in tandem with the museum’s curatorial, collections and educational teams. DLR Group and Panzica Construction worked on the transformation project.
Along with the opening of the Visitor Hall, the museum has announced the following programming premieres. “Flight of the Butterflies” follows the monarch butterfly on the Earth’s longest migration, a journey that spans a continent. “Titanosaur 3D” focuses on the magnificence of the largest animal to ever walk the Earth. “Eclipse Fever” is a new show that runs through Jan. 14. In this presentation, museum astronomers explore the geometry of eclipses and discuss the proper techniques for observing an eclipse in preparation for a total solar eclipse on Apr. 8, 2024. “Nesting: Images by Judith McMillan” explores birds’ nests as architecture. McMillan is an American artist and a board member of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History.
While general admission is included in all museum memberships, current reduced admission rates are $10 for adults, and $7 for seniors and youth ages three to 18. With the opening of the Visitor Hall, guests are no longer required to order tickets in advance. Every Sunday, residents of Cleveland and East Cleveland are invited to the museum free of charge as part of the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Community Days. Proof of residency is required.
The reimagined spaces at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History are designed to accommodate the ultimate special event experience, with day and evening private event options for up to 400 guests.
A community gathering place, educational center and research institutions, the museum is a vital resource that serves Cleveland and the nation. Visit for more information. The Cleveland Museum of Natural History is at 1 Wade Oval in University Circle.