Putting the future on display
Published 4:01 pm Sunday, March 27, 2016
The first thing visitors are likely to see when they enter the Jay C. Hormel Nature Center’s new interpretive center once it opens in 2017 is a large rotating Earth and the second things are exhibits concerning several areas of life science.
With under a month to go until an Earth Day groundbreaking on April 22, area residents are getting a better idea for what will be inside the nature center’s $7 million interpretive center.
At 15,000 square feet, the new interpretive center will be about 1,000 more square feet than the Ruby Rupner Auditorium.
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That space will give the nature center room to add 13 new exhibits that will coincide with its curriculum. Director/Naturalist Larry Dolphin said staff is looking forward to the new exhibits, which will highlight forests, prairies, ponds, weather, geology, insects, conservation and a lot more, Dolphin said.
“The focus is to stay local with what lives here and not what lives in northern Minnesota but what you might find here in southern Minnesota,” Dolphin said. “It’s a pretty good sized area that we’ll be incorporating the exhibits and displaying it.”
After seeing the Earth in the entrance area, probably the second largest feature will be a large cottonwood tree with turtle and salamander terrariums in an outreaching branch. Guests will also be able to walk through a tunnel in the tree trunk.
Perhaps the center’s most-anticipated exhibit is “Creatures of the Night.” Without giving too many explicit details, the exhibit will be a darkened walking tunnel with things people might see or hear in the night, such as owls, coyotes and more.
“There’s going to be some pretty cool stuff in there,” Dolphin said. “A glowing moon and fireflies. The story of the night sky. It will be something to look forward to.”
Staff also plans to move over a buffalo exhibit, a live birds of prey exhibit and a reptiles display from the current center to the new center. The red-tailed hawk and the barn owl will have a new enclosure and exhibit area, as will the reptiles.
“So you’re looking at what might live in a forest habitat and there will be modeled animals that’ll be in those forest habitats and there will be some reading rails and panels,” Dolphin said.
The early childhood room will have plated rubbing tables and a reading treehouse for grandparents and parents to read to their grandchildren and children, Dolphin said. Most exhibits from the current early childhood room will be in the new center and the new displays will also be tied into its curriculum.
Split Rock Studios from St. Paul will install the displays, Dolphin said.
“It’s going to be really cool,” Dolphin said.
About $6 million of the new interpretive center’s $7 million price tag will go toward the building, while $1 million will got toward the exhibits. Though most of the cost is covered already, the nature center still needs additional funds, and Dolphin encouraged people to support the project if they haven’t yet.
While the groundbreaking is planned for Earth Day, Dolphin said construction will likely start before if weather allows.
Faribault-based Met-Con Companies Construction Services won the bid earlier this month to build the interpretive center. Schwab LLC of Rochester handled the first phase, which covered ground work and building a new maintenance shop, which has been largely completed. Dolphin said phase two, the next phase, will be the biggest as the building is constructed.
The expected completion and dedication date is Earth Day, April 22, 2017.
13 new exhibits
–Historical display: a mural of Jay C. Hormel planting trees.
–Rotating Earth: The globe that will greet guests as they come into the center.
–Donor wall: A mural of all donor levels will name and thank those who donated to the center.
–Creatures of the night: A darkened walk-through exhibit with sounds of night creatures.
–Renewable energy: Interactive exhibit about saving energy in your own home.
–Early childhood room: A room especially for younger children full of activities such as identifying birds, an “I Spy” mural and a reading treehouse.
–Weather, phenology and climate: An exhibit all about the weather that rolls through Minnesota and the rest of the world.
–Ecology of the forest: As part of the large cottonwood tree, the salamanders and turtles will have a new terrarium and there will be interactive activities about what lives in the forest.
–Soil of habitat/prairie plants: The prairie exhibit will feature animals that live on the prairie, such as bison and burrowing animals like gophers and badgers. The bison from the current center will also have a new home in this area.
–Ponds: On the other side of the cottonwood tree, a crawl-space turtle shell structure and information and a mural of a typical pond habitat.
–Live birds of prey: The barn owl and red-tailed hawk will also have a new home in the nature center and a new exhibit area.
–Geological timeline: Perhaps the most expansive exhibit is the geological timeline spanning three walls of the exhibit room.