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MINNEAPOLIS -- On the corner of University Avenue, on the Twin Cities Campus of the University of Minnesota, there sits a piece of history.

You might not notice it a first, but look closely because it's actually a 140-year-old piece of history - natural history, that is.

TheBell Museum of Natural History is celebrating its 140th birthday this year. That's over a century of offering events and resources for those of us interested in sharing our passion for science and the natural world.

"The Minnesota State legislature established us as their geological and natural survey in 1872, and gave us immediately to the University of Minnesota. And we've been building our collections every since, and we have millions of specimens," explained Susan Weller, Director of the Bell Museum of Natural History.

The exact 1872 legislature wording was: 'as an act to provide for a geological and natural history survey of the state. And in turn, that natural history and geological specimens be prepared, and a museum be established at the University.' And with that, the Bell Museum of Natural History was born.

"That's interesting, initially it was sort of this very, just scientific collection, it was very much part of research of the University. Then it really wasn't until the late 1920s that it started to say, do some public outreach, kind of do public education and start creating these diorama exhibits that would show people the habitat and wildlife of the state of Minnesota," said Don Luce, Curator of Exhibits at the Bell Museum.

"We have among the best dioramas in the country, and diorama is a term that is a special exhibit that shows, has artwork for the background, and then has the animals and plants prepared in their natural setting in the foreground," added Weller.

"Museums, before dioramas, were just cases full of specimens. So, here it was an attempt to put everything together in a natural setting that was not only beautiful and attractive to the public, and show the animals interacting and behaving, but hopefully would convey this idea of the importance of habitat for the protection of these animals and this interplay between the plants animals and their environment," said Luce.

Not only does the Bell Museum have an impressive display of dioramas, it also offers a little bit of everything for everybody. And, it's all in the name of education and the natural world.

"This museum is a family-friendly place where you can come and learn about Minnesota's great outdoors and show your children and parents how wonderful animals and plants are here," explained Weller. "We want people to reflect on their place in nature and how to be inspired as to how they can protect and conserve our natural resources for future generations.

And so, 140 years later, the Bell Museum is still inspiring outdoor lovers of all ages.

Happy birthday. Here's to 140 more years.

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