Dinosaur skeleton in Cleveland Museum of Natural History’s Visitor Hall (photo by Gus Chan)

​Cleveland Museum of Natural History Has Bold New Look

The beloved University Circle attraction’s new Visitor Hall previews the wonders to come when the institution’s full renovation is complete.

A dinosaur skeleton unearthed in 1954 occupies the same space as the oldest and most complete fossil of a human ancestor ever discovered. The famous sled dog Balto stands at attention, and a rock from the surface of the moon rests behind glass. Unveiled in October 2023 and covering 14,650 square feet, the Cleveland Museum of Natural History’s new Visitor Hall immediately grabs your attention. 

“It’s the starting point for people’s journey of exploration and a reconceptualizing of what a natural history museum could be in a community and the role we expect it to play,” says Andrew Bednarski, the Cleveland Museum of Natural History’s director of philanthropic partnerships.

The flowing hall showcases some of the museum’s most beloved specimens in an airy and bright space with large windows and snow-white walls that create an inviting atmosphere to explore. The design was meant to evoke the feel of the glaciers that shaped the very land the museum sits on. Longtime favorites found here include Happy, a sauropod specimen that has long been one of the museum’s most iconic attractions. There’s also Dunk, the massive jaws of a Dunkleosteus terrelli — an apex predator that swam the waters that covered what is now Ohio around 360 million years ago.

Balto, who made headlines around the world in 1925 as the lead sled dog on the final leg of a journey to deliver lifesaving medicine to Nome, Alaska, became part of the museum’s collection in 1933 and has returned to display after being restored.

The free-to-visit hall serves as a preview of the rest of the museum renovations that are scheduled to be completed by December 2024.

“It’s going to be something that nobody has seen before when it comes to a natural history museum,” Bednarski says. “It’s going to be a very innovative way of telling that story and centering the individual.”  

1 Wade Oval Dr., Cleveland 44106, 216/231-4600, cmnh.org