Cleveland Museum of Natural History

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Cleveland Museum of Natural History
Cleveland Museum of NH logo.png
Cleveland Museum of Natural History
Location1 Wade Oval Drive
Cleveland, Ohio 44106
Coordinates41°30′41.6″N 81°36′47.1″W / 41.511556°N 81.613083°W / 41.511556; -81.613083Coordinates: 41°30′41.6″N 81°36′47.1″W / 41.511556°N 81.613083°W / 41.511556; -81.613083
PresidentSonia Winner [2]

The Cleveland Museum of Natural History is a natural history museum located approximately five miles (8 km) east of downtown Cleveland, Ohio in University Circle, a 550-acre (220 ha) concentration of educational, cultural and medical institutions. The museum was established in 1920 by Cyrus S. Eaton to perform research, education and development of collections in the fields of anthropology, archaeology, astronomy, botany, geology, paleontology, wildlife biology, and zoology.[3] The museum traces its roots to the Ark, formed in 1836 on Cleveland's Public Square by William Case, the Academy of Natural Science formed by William Case and Jared Potter Kirtland, and the Kirtland Society of Natural History, founded in 1869 and reinvigorated in 1922 by the trustees of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History.[4]

Donald Johanson was the curator of the museum when he discovered "Lucy," the skeletal remains of the ancient hominid Australopithecus afarensis. The current Curator and Head of the Physical Anthropology Department is Yohannes Haile-Selassie.

The museum has embarked on a multi-year, $150 million renovation and expansion project. DLR Group was selected to design the project in June 2019,[5] and the museum broke ground on its new visitor hall, lobby and exhibit wing in June 2021.[6] A new entrance and other upgrades opened in December 2022.[7] The project is scheduled to be completed in December 2024, two years ahead of the original schedule.[8]


The Cleveland Museum of Natural History traces its founding, in part, back to the 1830s.[9] A two-room frame house located on the northeast side of Public Square, known as the Ark, housed taxidermy ranging from birds to reptiles and mammals.[10] This was the collection of Leonard Case Sr., who passed the collection and building to his sons Leonard Case Jr. and William Case. The Ark was frequented by a group of 26 men known as Arkites. These men collected, researched, and discussed findings with each other. There were no museums in Cleveland at the time.[10]

In 1876 the Ark moved to nearby Case Hall. The original structure was torn down to build a post office. The collection remained there until 1916, when the facility was converted to the Cleveland Public Library.[10]

The Cleveland Museum of Natural History, as it is known today, was founded in 1920. It was located in an office of the Lennox Building.[9] At the end of the following year, the museum moved to a mansion on Euclid Avenue, a part of Cleveland's millionaires' row.[10] This location was first opened to the public June 24, 1922.[9]

The museum received the precious stone collection of Jeptha Wade II, after his death in 1926.[11] In 1930, the museum organized an ornithological safari to Kenya, expanding the Case collection.[12] The Haplocanthosaurus dinosaur, discovered by museum crew in 1954, is one of the most complete examples ever found of this 70-footlong sauropod.[13] Beyond their walls, the museum participated in the operation of the Cleveland Zoo from 1940 and 1975; it also served as a leading force behind the creation of the Cleveland Aquarium, which it administered until 1985. In 1995 the museum maintained 12 natural areas in surrounding counties as sanctuaries.[14]

In 1958, the museum moved to its current location in University Circle at Wade Park. The new, two-level building housed exhibits and educational activities, while the collections were stored off-site. Additions quickly followed, including an observatory, planetarium and the Kirtland Hall of Nature.[9]

The Ralph Mueller Observatory opened in December 1960. It houses a 10½-inch refracting telescope built by the Warner & Swasey Co. of Cleveland in 1899. J.A. Brashear Company of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, a division of American Optical Company, ground the optics. Warner & Swasey Co. originally donated the telescope to Western Reserve College (now Case Western Reserve University). It was located on the roof of the university's physics building for 61 years before being acquired by the museum.[15]

An 85,000 square feet addition in 1972 enlarged the museum, adding galleries, the Murch Auditorium, the Harold T. Clark Library and Rare Book Room, classrooms, a paleontology laboratory, and the front entrance and lobby. This created a circular building with a courtyard in the middle.[9]

In 1973, curator Donald Johanson joined an archeological expedition in Ethiopia, where he discovered "Lucy," deemed one of the most important fossil finds in human evolutionary studies. This Australopithecus afarensis demonstrated modern upright walking in a 3.2 million-year-old female hominin.[13]

A new 62,000-square-foot wing on the back of the museum was completed in 1989. It added a large exhibit hall for traveling exhibits, as well as an expanded gift shop and three floors for collections and administrative offices.[9]

In January 2002, Shafran Planetarium opened to the public. Designed by Cleveland architectural and engineering firm Westlake Reed Leskosky (now DLR Group), the building exterior functions as an astronomical instrument. Nightly, visitors can use the building's angled roof to locate Polaris. The building's titanium-coated, stainless-steel outer covering sparkles with stars created by embedded fiber-optic lighting. This system emits a subtle glow without contributing to the light pollution above University Circle.[15]

On June 24, 2021, ground broke on a 50,000-Square-Foot Expansion as part of the museum's Centennial Transformation Project.[16] The design by DLR Group is said to evoke the melting ice that made the Great Lakes region and the impact of water on the communities.[17][18] The project is expected to be completed in 2026.[19]


The museum's cast of Lucy

Museum collections total more than four million specimens and include specimens of paleontology, zoology, archaeology, mineralogy, ornithology, and a variety of other scientific subjects.

As of December 2022, these items are off display:

The museum has made many discoveries over the years. A new ceratopsian, Albertaceratops nesmoi, was named in 2007 by former CMNH curator of Vertebrate Paleontology Michael Ryan.

Hamann-Todd Collection[edit]

The Hamann-Todd Collection is a collection of more than 3100 human skeletons and over 900 primate skeletons that were assembled starting in 1893. The collection was originally housed at Western Reserve University Medical School in a new medical building that was built for that purpose. The first floor of this building contained the Hamann Museum of Comparative Anthropology and Anatomy. However, due to the costs of storing the bones, the collection was transferred[when?] to the Cleveland Museum of Natural History.[citation needed]

In 1893, Carl August Hamann initiated the collection. Its administration was taken over by T. Wingate Todd after Hamann was named dean of Western Reserve University's medical school in 1912. Todd managed to assemble the great majority of the human skeletons in the collection, over 3000, before his death in 1938.[citation needed]

Perkins Wildlife Center[edit]

The Ralph Perkins II Wildlife Center and Woods Garden presented by Key Bank, which includes live animals and plants native to Ohio, opened on September 3, 2016.[23][24]


A statue of Carl Linnaeus by Carl Eldh stands outside the museum.

The museum's collection of art includes:

  • Steggie, an 18-foot (5.5 m)-long, 8-foot (2.4 m)-tall Stegosaurus sculpture, has greeted museum visitors since 1968. When the original sculpture became worn, a new cast (Steggie II) was made from the original mold by Louis Paul Jonas Studios, the artists who created the first sculpture.[25] In 2016, it was repainted in colors better reflecting current scientific understanding.[26][27][28]
  • Victor Schreckengost's Pachyderms reliefs are mounted on a wall outside the museum facing the intersection of East Boulevard and Martin Luther King Jr. Drive.[29] The 32-ton terra cotta reliefs depict adult and juvenile mastodons and mammoths, and were originally created in 1955 for the pachyderm house at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo. When the pachyderm house was demolished for a replacement exhibit in 2008, they were removed and placed in storage. The Intermuseum Conservation Association oversaw their reinstallation at the museum in 2016.[30]
  • Old Grizzly, a four-ton limestone bear, was sculpted by William McVey in 1934 through the federal Public Works of Art Project. When the Cleveland Zoo was located in Wade Park, the sculpture was placed near the bear enclosure. It currently sits in the Perkins Wildlife Center.[31]


  1. ^[bare URL PDF]
  2. ^ Steven Litt, The Plain Dealer (July 27, 2018). "Cleveland Museum of Natural History promotes Sonia Winner from acting CEO to president and CEO". Retrieved 2019-01-09.
  3. ^ Cyrus Eaton - Cleveland Biography
  4. ^ Hendrickson, Walter B. (1962). The Arkites and Other Pioneer Natural History Organizations of Cleveland. Cleveland: Western Reserve University. LCCN 62-17763.
  5. ^ Stone, Leilah (December 18, 2019). "Cleveland Museum of Natural History's $150 million expansion inches closer to completion". The Architect's Newspaper. Retrieved December 28, 2022.
  6. ^ Litt, Steven (June 25, 2021). "Cleveland Museum of Natural History kicks off $47.8M next phase of $150M expansion and renovation". Retrieved December 28, 2022.
  7. ^ Bhatia, Kabir (December 6, 2022). "Cleveland Museum of Natural History unveils new entrance, upgrades as part of renovations". Ideastream Public Media. Retrieved December 8, 2022.
  8. ^ Jordan, Jenna (December 21, 2022). "Evolution continues for Cleveland Museum of Natural History". Spectrum News 1. Retrieved December 28, 2022.
  9. ^ a b c d e f "Where We've Been". Cleveland Museum of Natural History. Retrieved 19 May 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  10. ^ a b c d Splain, Emily. "Cleveland Museum of Natural History - From Humble Shack to Venerable Institution". Cleveland Historical. Retrieved 2022-05-19.
  11. ^ "Cleveland Museum of Art: Founders". Cleveland Museum of Art. 2012-10-22. Retrieved 2022-05-19.
  12. ^ Seibert, Henri C. (1946-09-01). "Birds of the White-Fuller Expedition to Kenya, East Africa. Harry C. Oberholser". The Quarterly Review of Biology. 21 (3): 290. doi:10.1086/395347. ISSN 0033-5770.
  13. ^ a b "THE CLEVELAND MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY AT A GLANCE" (PDF). Cleveland Museum of Natural History. Retrieved 19 May 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  14. ^ "CLEVELAND MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY". Encyclopedia of Cleveland History | Case Western Reserve University. 2019-11-18. Retrieved 2022-05-19.
  15. ^ a b "Shafran Planetarium & Mueller Observatory". Cleveland Museum of Natural History. Retrieved 19 May 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  16. ^ "Designing for Cleveland's Museum of Natural History". DLR Group. Retrieved 2022-05-19.
  17. ^ Litt, Steven; clevel; .com (2019-06-16). "New design for natural history museum expansion evokes glaciers and waters of Great Lakes". cleveland. Retrieved 2022-05-19.
  18. ^ "Cleveland Museum of Natural History Breaks Ground on $150M Expansion". DLR Group. Retrieved 2022-05-19.
  19. ^ "The $150 Million Museum Expansion is Closer to Completion". DLR Group. Retrieved 2022-05-19.
  20. ^ "Rebuilding an Icon: A New Lucy". Cleveland Museum of Natural History.
  21. ^ Segall, Grant (10 May 2013). "Researcher Shyamala Chitaely worked until nearly age 93 at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History: News obituary". The Plain Dealer. Retrieved 11 June 2013.
  22. ^ "Education-time-capsule Photos & Pictures |". Archived from the original on 2015-10-01. Retrieved 2015-09-30.
  23. ^ Litt, Steven (28 August 2016). "Cleveland Museum of Natural History's new Perkins Wildlife Center: The best 2 acres in CLE". The Plain Dealer. Retrieved 28 August 2016.
  24. ^ "Perkins Wildlife Center". Cleveland Museum of Natural History. Archived from the original on 26 April 2016. Retrieved 28 August 2016.
  25. ^ Wasman, Wendy (March 2, 2016). "Looking Back on Nearly 50 Years of Steggie". Cleveland Museum of Natural History. Retrieved December 30, 2022.
  26. ^ DeMarco, Laura (March 15, 2016). "Cleveland Museum of Natural History's iconic Steggie sculpture to be removed for repairs". The Plain Dealer. Retrieved December 30, 2022.
  27. ^ Crow, Chuck (April 22, 2016). ""Steggie" returns to its home in front of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History". The Plain Dealer. Retrieved December 30, 2022.
  28. ^ "Case Study: Moving Steggie". Cool Cleveland. June 2016. Retrieved December 30, 2022.
  29. ^ Litt, Steven (February 27, 2016). "Schreckengost pachyderms ready for encore at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History". The Plain Dealer. Retrieved December 30, 2022.
  30. ^ Litt, Steven (August 13, 2016). "Schreckengost pachyderm sculptures formally unveiled at Cleveland Museum of Natural History". The Plain Dealer. Retrieved December 30, 2022.
  31. ^ Wasman, Wendy; Webster, Harvey (November 23, 2015). "Beloved bear sculpture's past, present and future". Cleveland Museum of Natural History. Retrieved December 30, 2022.

External links[edit]