Archive for Saturday, August 17, 1996


August 17, 1996


Visitors will see a few changes this fall at the Kansas University Natural History Museum.

The Kansas University Natural History Museum will be a little bit more user-friendlier next year.

For example, the North American panorama of animals built in 1901 will have new recordings and scripts explaining the animals -- in English and Spanish and with natural sounds. Also, a television camera will show what's buzzing in the live bee exhibit, at 50 times the natural size.

And it will be a little harder to lose your way, thanks to new signs.

"The classic exhibits that are extremely popular are being modified to make them more educational," said Leonard Krishtalka, the museum's director.

During the summer, the museum was putting together recordings for the different stations of the panorama on the museum's fourth floor to explain the plants and animals.

"For example, visitors will be able to press a button and listen to the major features of the Arctic," he said.

Krishtalka said visitors should like the new "wayfinding" system.

"They will have a much better idea of what's on every other floor they want to visit," he said. "They'll be able to easily find restrooms, facilities for handicapped visitors and the gift shop.

"One of the complaints we've heard a lot from the public is that the signage is not as good as it can be," he said. "When people are on a certain floor, they don't know what floor they're on, they don't know what's on the floor above or the floor below."

The system was designed by Julie Johnson Coats, a KU industrial design student who worked at the museum for four years.

Other areas of the building are buzzing with improvements, too.

"We are planning to upgrade our live bee exhibit," Krishtalka said. "We're going to install a wonderful little camera that will allow visitors to see the bees up to 50 times their natural size. It will be blown up so you will be able to see the hairs of the bees and the bees grooming each other and crawling over each other inside the hive."

That will be fed into the Internet and sent out around the world, he said.

"It will be an educational device for visiting groups and students," Krishtalka said. "The same cameras are being used in research labs to study behavior."

The museum has also begun a five-year project to conduct an architectural survey of Dyche Hall, which will be completed by its 100th birthday in 2001.

The HABS project, which stands for Historic American Buildings Survey, will be done by the KU School of Architecture, which did a similar project on KU's Spooner Hall.

"It will be a complete architectural survey of the building that will produce world-class architectural drawings of the building," Krishtalka said.

The project will cost between $50,000 and $80,000.

The building's exterior stonework and one-of-a-kind grotesques on the building's exterior will be repaired. When the 1963 wing was added to the building's north side, four grotesques were removed. Three of those will be added to the latest addition on the west. One of the grotesques has been lost, Krishtalka said.

"Anybody who turns in the missing grotesque, the original, will receive a cast of one of the originals for their lawn and garden," he said.

The museum will also have a new reception area in the front to welcome visitors. Visitors will be able to book tours, register for educational classes or contact a research scientist.

About 200,000 people visit the museum each year, making it one of the top five most-visited spots in Kansas. The museum also gets a lot of visitors to its four seasons display of animals along the Kansas River at the Lawrence Riverfront Factory Outlets Sixth and New Hampshire. Efforts will be made for other exhibits in the future, Krishtalka said.

The museum has also applied for a grant to provide information on the Internet for the science curriculums for local fifth-graders that complement trunks now sent to schools that contain hands-on material to look at as they study animals.

For example, while students are studying bats, they can open the trunk and look at the bat material and they can look at the bat information on the Internet and do live two-way teleconferencing so students can ask questions.

The museum will begin setting up an "environmental informatics" laboratory in the fall, which will begin assembling, integrating, displaying and disseminating information about the animals and plants of Kansas. It will be used by land managers, government agencies, corporations and other scientists.

"This involves assembling and integrating information about the five million animals and plants that we house here in the museum, with the information for the more than half a billion animals and plants housed at museums and herbariums in the United States," he said.

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