State museum gets major upgrades while closed during pandemic

Local News

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – The Museum of Natural History and Science may be closed during the pandemic but there is still a lot happening inside.

The museum’s getting a bit of a much-needed makeover, including a screen projection in the museum’s atrium that takes visitors into a day with the dinosaurs more than seventy million years ago.

“The dinosaur would actually kind of look at you and track you,” said Brandon Garrett, vice president of Electric Playhouse which created the touch-free dino wall. “The closer you get to the screen, the more kind of excitement and animations are going to play.”

It’s a new addition, along with two educational panels complementing the popular animatronic Bisti Beast. “People can find out more about where the Bisti Beast was found and how New Mexico has changed,” the museum’s Space Science Director Jim Greenhouse explained.

Those additions were paid for with revenue from the Da Vinci exhibit a couple years ago.

They’re among the upgrades underway since the pandemic shut down the museum to visitors five months ago. “You’re going to really see some differences in the museum,” Museum Director Margaret Marino said.

State funding covered the now-finished improvements to the 20-year-old planetarium. Crews switched out rows of broken seats with more comfortable ones, added new lighting and treads on the stairs, and have plans for new programming.

“We hope to be able to bring in more live musical groups and choreograph what they’re doing with images on the dome,” Greenhouse said.

It’s still unclear when they’ll be able to open the doors to visitors again. “We’re really looking at a 5 to 15 percent hit to our budgets this year,” Marino said.

But, employees are fast-tracking another project they say could be done by the end of the year. “We’ve also been digitizing our entire collection and we’re about 90 percent done with that,” Marino stated. “We were able to throw staff at it. Something that was going to take two or three years, so we’re way ahead of the game.”

She said when the museum does eventually reopen, it will likely only be two or three days a week, including weekends.

Future plans call for a renovation of part of the building to turn it into a large hall that could host some of the more popular traveling exhibits, but the museum still needs the funding for it.

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