Natural history museum to expand


Although its relics inside haven’t changed for decades, ULM’s Museum of Natural History will soon see an innovative expansion.

The bulk of the museum materials will still be displayed on the first floor of Hanna Hall, and the rocks, minerals and artifacts on display cabinets will remain on both the second and third floors of Hanna Hall.

The museum expansion will include new, hands-on exhibits in order to encourage active engagement by visitors.

“We are working with multiple departments to acquire an augmented reality sandbox. We have spoken to computer science faculty about developing computer station kiosks that deliver educational information with the touch of a keystroke. Atmospheric sciences faculty and students are working to build us a tornado machine,” said Kim Tolson, the director of ULM’s  Museum of Natural History.

The museum, which has existed since 1962, showcases displays of zoology and plant specimens, geoscience exhibits from around the world, rocks and minerals.

Hillary May, a former student worker at the museum, still finds time between studies to visit once or twice a month and is excited for the expansion.

May, who loves the museum’s live fish, said the museum expansion will be amazing and beneficial for the ULM community.

“Although student visitation is little, there are more visitors from elementary students and parents who want to expose and explore with their children. It’s a fun experience for everyone,” said May, a senior biology major.

Some students, however, are required to interact with the museum.

Many ULM programs use this museum for class assignments and the artifacts inside as display material in lab exercises.Some professors mandate visitation of the museum. There is even a special sign-in book for students with class assignments in geoscience and history.

Tolson said she hopes the expansion will bring more faculty and student use of the facilities by non-science disciplines.

“I would love to host an English class looking for inspiration to write or an art class looking for inspiration to paint or draw,” said Tolson, reminding that all classes of all disciplines are welcome to use the facilities.

Expansion began in fall 2018 when the administration gave the director of the School of Sciences, Anne Case-Hanks the okay to move into the space the bookstore used to occupy on the first floor of Hanna.

According to Tolson, the goal is to have a ‘soft opening’ some time in the fall with an opening program and reception.

“We are hoping to get this space ready for occupancy and begin moving some displays in this summer,” Tolson said.

There is no foreseeable end date to expansion in the near future thanks to the efforts of the College of Arts, Education and Sciences’ dean, John Pratte, who is committed to working with the ULM Foundation to find donors and sponsors for the expansion.

Thanks to Pratte, “The university has provided movers to help us clean out the new space, along with carpenters to make minor repairs and staff to replace broken ceiling tiles. The majority of the physical work associated with the expansion is done by faculty, student workers and volunteers,” Tolson said.

However, Case-Hanks and Tolson are still searching for grant opportunities and writing proposals to programs that would support the museum.

“The plans are to keep the museum dynamic by rotating displays, bringing in special loan materials and continuously upgrading our facilities,” Tolson said.

This is in special thanks to Case-Hanks, who has worked with the administration to get the expansion approved and implemented.