A Natural Curiosity: The Story of the Bell Museum (Hardcover)
A richly illustrated tour of Minnesota’s premier natural history museum after 150 years
From its humble start in 1872 as a one-room cabinet of curiosities, the University of Minnesota’s Bell Museum of natural history has grown to be one of the state’s most important cultural institutions. Within its walls are displayed the natural wonders of Minnesota and the world beyond, a standing invitation to explore, understand, and appreciate our natural environment—and, for visitors of all ages, both seasoned observers and curious onlookers, to experience the delight of discovery. A Natural Curiosity is a tale well told, a lively ride across 150 years of important scientific advancement.
Drawing on a wealth of materials unearthed during the museum’s recent move to its new building, this gorgeously illustrated book chronicles the remarkable discoveries, moments, and personalities that have made the Bell Museum what it is today. Among the stories of ornithologists, botanists, tycoons, and conservationists, readers will encounter the magnificent dioramas created by renowned artist Francis Lee Jaques, the adventures behind some of the Bell’s more curious specimens (like the bones of Philippine orangutans and moonrats, a high-flying moose, and a simple fungi sample that saved a man’s life), and the dramatic accounts of the critical advances made by the museum in wildlife telemetry, conservation biology, and scientific learning—all in defense of our planet’s threatened biodiversity. In a photographic finale, readers will be treated to a tour of the new, reimagined museum, complete with the planetarium that inspired one Minnesota boy to become a NASA astronaut.
From its conception as part of a state-mandated geological and natural history survey, to its most recent ventures into technology, environmental science, and DNA sequencing, the Bell Museum has informed, explained, and expanded our relationship to the natural world. Its story, engagingly told in A Natural Curiosity, reveals and explores the profound changes undergone by society, science, and the natural landscape over the museum’s lifetime.
About the Author
Lansing Shepard is a writer who specializes in conservation, environmental policy, and natural history. He is coauthor of This Perennial Land: Third Crops, Blue Earth, and the Road to a Restorative Agriculture and author of the Northern Plains volume of The Smithsonian Guides to Natural America series. He has written for the Bell Museum’s IMPRINT publication, contributed to exhibition scripts, and coauthored the television documentary Minnesota: A History of the Land.
Don Luce is Bell Museum Curator of Exhibits. For more than forty years he has curated most of the museum’s temporary exhibitions, including Exploring Evolution, The Lion’s Mane, Wildlife Art in America, and Audubon and the Art of Birds. He initiated the Bell’s traveling exhibitions program, developed and expanded its natural history art collection, and played a key role in the conception and design of the new museum’s permanent exhibit gallery, Minnesota Journeys.
Barbara Coffin has promoted the conservation and understanding of Minnesota’s natural world throughout her career. She is the former head of media productions and adult programs at the Bell Museum and played an important role in the design of the new museum’s exhibit galleries. She is executive producer of the Emmy Award–winning television documentary Minnesota: A History of the Land and coeditor of Minnesota’s Endangered Flora and Fauna (Minnesota, 1988).
Gwen Schagrin has worked in exhibits research, design, and production at the Bell Museum since 1992, contributing to the museum’s Wildlife Art in America publication and the preservation and management of its wildlife art collection. She served as special exhibitions assistant curator for Audubon and the Art of Birds and was a coauthor of its exhibition guidebook.
"The book is beautiful, with full-color pages packed with illustrations and photos."—Racket
"Drawing on a wealth of materials unearthed during the museum’s recent move to its new building, this gorgeously illustrated book chronicles the remarkable discoveries, moments, and personalities that have made the Bell Museum what it is today."—The Timberjay
"The story of this natural history museum is well told in the lavishly illustrated volume."—Minnesota Alumni
"This volume documenting the 150-year history of the University of Minnesota's Bell Museum is a must for your coffee table so you can easily dip into the stories behind our state's only natural history museum."—MSP Home Design
"A Natural Curiosity serves as a well-written and abundantly illustrated introduction to the history of the Bell Museum."—H-Net Reviews