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Science Museum of Minnesota
Science Museum of Minnesota front.jpg
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Established 1907
Location 120 W. Kellogg Boulevard, Saint Paul, Minnesota, United States
Type Science museum

Science Museum of Minnesota is an American museum focused on topics in technology, natural history, physical science, and mathematics education. Founded in 1907 and located in Saint Paul, Minnesota, the 501(c)(3) nonprofit institution is staffed by over 600 employees and over 1,600 volunteers. The museum's mission statement is to "Turn on the science: Inspire learning. Inform policy. Improve lives."


The museum was formed during a luncheon in 1906 when Charles W. Ames, a prominent businessman, met with a group and discussed "the intellectual and scientific growth of St. Paul". The museum, originally named the St. Paul Institute of Science and Letters, was first located at the St. Paul Auditorium on Fourth Street. In 1909, the St. Paul School of Fine Arts (now known as the Minnesota Museum of American Art) briefly merged with St. Paul Institute.

In 1927 the museum moved to Merriam Mansion on Capitol Hill, the former home of Col. John Merriam. This move provided more storage space for exhibits. As the Science Museum continued to outgrow its facilities, it moved to the St. Paul-Ramsey Arts and Sciences Center at 30 East Tenth Street in 1964. In 1978, this expanded across a skyway into a new space on Wabasha between 10th and Exchange, greatly increasing exhibit space and adding an IMAX Dome (OMNIMAX) cinema.

In the early 1990s, plans for a new and more modern facility, to be located adjacent to the Mississippi River, were formed. With aid from public funding initiatives, the new museum broke ground on May 1, 1997 and opened on December 11, 1999. During the move, 1.75 million artifacts were transported.

Resident exhibits

Electro-metabograph machine
The "electro-metabograph machine" on display in the Quackery Hall of Fame
SMM Triceratops
The Triceratops, a composite mount of two animals nicknamed "Fafnir"

There are a number of exhibits that are always in the museum, including:

  • Dinosaurs & Fossils showcases several original and replicated dinosaur skeletons, as well as many complete and preserved animals. Some highlights include a Triceratops, Diplodocus, Allosaurus, Stegosaurus, and Camptosaurus.
  • The Human Body Gallery shows visitors the various tissues, organs, and systems (such as blood or digestion) that make up the human body. There is a mummy on display here, as well as many cultural artifacts from the Museum of Questionable Medical Devices. The museum acquired these pieces in 2002 when its original owner Bob McCoy, son of Wilson McCoy, retired and donated the collection.
  • The Experiment Gallery allows visitors to explore concepts in physics, math, and physical and earth science with interactive displays.
  • RACE: Are We So Different? is the first national exhibition to tell the stories of race from the biological, cultural, and historical points of view. Combining these perspectives offers an unprecedented look at race and racism in the United States.
  • The We Move & We Stay features artifacts and historical content about the Dakota and Ojibwe people.
  • The Mississippi River Gallery takes advantage of the museum's proximity to the river and a National Park to educate visitors about its natural resources. Visitors can learn about the environment and animals of the river. It is also home The Collectors' Corner. Traders (primarily children) bring in natural artifacts they have found to trade them for points or another artifact. The more information they can discuss about their item, the more points they earn.



The new building has a dual-screen IMAX/Omnimax theater with both a wall screen, for IMAX films and other flat presentations, and a rotatable dome, for viewing Omnitheater films, the first such convertible theater in the northern hemisphere. The counterweights for the system were so massive that they had to be put in place before the rest of the building. The theater boasts "the largest permanently installed electronic cinema projector in the world", an advanced computer system to coordinate the theater's facilities, and a complex sound system to accommodate both viewing formats, according to the website.

The museum has been a leading producer of Omnitheater films, with ten to its credit so far:

  • Genesis (1978)
  • Living Planet (1979)
  • The Great Barrier Reef (1981)
  • Darwin on the Galapagos (1983)
  • Seasons (1987)
  • Ring of Fire (1991)
  • Tropical Rainforest (1992)
  • Search for the Great Sharks (1995)
  • The Greatest Places (1998)
  • Jane Goodall's Wild Chimpanzees (2002)

The theater was closed for a brief time in early 2014 to repair a leaky roof.

Mississippi River Visitor Center

Inside the lobby of the Science Museum is the National Park Service Visitor Center for the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area, which is open free of charge. Mississippi River exhibits and National Park Rangers are available to help people learn about and experience the Mississippi River. The visitor center is also equipped with resources to help plan trips to any of the more than 390 national parks.

Collections Vault

The museum houses a collection of over 1.7 million artifacts and objects in its vault, ranging from dinosaur and other animal remains and fossils, preserved animals and plants, and cultural artifacts from extinct and extant civilizations. The collections division maintains a staff of scientists and researchers including paleontologists, archaeologists, ecologists, biologists, ethnologists, and archivists. Researchers visit the vault to take advantage of the unique collection, but it is not open to regular museum visitors.

Lee and Rose Warner Nature Center

The museum is associated with the Lee and Rose Warner Nature Center, which is located approximately 30 miles (48 km) offsite in Washington County. The center provides natural history education opportunities for all ages on over 600 acres (2.4 km2) of lakes, bogs, woodlands, and grasslands.

Kitty Andersen Youth Science Center

The Kitty Andersen Youth Science Center (KAYSC) is an informal learning environment for young people between 11 and 18 years old. The mission of the KAYSC is to "empower youth to change our world through science". Although there are some volunteers in the KAYSC who are too young for jobs, most of the teens in the KAYSC are actual museum employees, engaging in activities ranging from staffing the Cell Lab on the museum floor to engaging in community activism around urban agriculture and climate change. The teens are guided and mentored in science, technology, work, and life skills by the adult staff.

Special exhibitions

The museum hosts 3-4 special exhibitions a year, with past exhibitions having included:

  • When Crocodiles Ruled (2000)
  • Mysteries of Catalhoyuk (2001)
  • Playing with Time (2002)
  • Vikings: The North Atlantic Saga (2002)
  • Robots and Us (2004)
  • Seasons of Life and Land (2004)
  • Invention at Play (2005)
  • Strange Matter (2006)
  • Body Worlds (2006)
  • Race: Are We So Different? (2007)
  • Wild Music (2007)
  • A Day in Pompeii (2007)
  • Deadly Medicine (2008)
  • Animation (2008)
  • Star Wars: Where Science Meets Imagination (2008)
  • CSI: The Experience (2008)
  • Goose Bumps! The Science of Fear (2009)
  • Water (2009)
  • Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition (2009)
  • The Dead Sea Scrolls: Words that Changed the World (2010)
  • Geometry Playground (2010)
  • Tutankhamun: The Golden King and the Great Pharaohs (2011)
  • Identity: An Exhibit of YOU (2011)
  • Nature Unleashed (2011)
  • Real Pirates: The Untold Story of the Whydah from Slave Ship to Pirate Ship (2012)
  • Lost Egypt: Ancient Secrets Modern Science (2012)
  • Body Worlds & The Cycle of Life (2013)
  • Maya: Hidden Worlds Revealed (2013)
  • Ultimate Dinosaurs (2014)
  • Design Zone (2014)
  • Space: An Out-of-Gravity Experience (2015)
  • Mummies: New Secrets from the Tombs (2016)
  • Mindbender Mansion (2016)
  • Mythic Creatures (2017)
  • The Science Behind Pixar (2017)


The Science Museum of Minnesota is a founding member of NISE Net and participates in NanoDays.


The museum also has an extensive science learning division. In addition to many on-site youth and family classes, day camps, and summer camps, museum programs are also hosted at various schools throughout the region. Day classes and summer camps often involve science, technology, nature, and art themes. Overnight camp-ins let large groups sleep on the exhibit floor and have time to explore the galleries and view an Omnitheater film as a group. The museum is also one of the leading professional development resources for teachers in the state.

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