BYU’s Monte L. Bean museum will open to the public on Saturday, June 7, after a two-year renovation.
“The contractor was right on time,” said Patty Jones, administrative assistant to the director of the museum.
The workers finished the building several months ago. Since then, the focus has been centered on preparing the exhibits.
The expansion added about 30,000 square feet to the building, including the largest elevator on campus.
“All money was privately donated,” said exhibits designer Ken Packer.
Not only was the addition privately funded, but all the animals within the museum were donated as well.
The new entrance on the east side is guarded by a Pumba-like warthog that sits on its well-traveled shipping box with a few birds on its shoulder. On the other side of the museum stands a large moose crafted by Michael Coleman.
The entrance to the museum features two giraffes on either side of a globe hanging from the two-story ceiling.
“We’ve been told it is the largest nine-foot fiberglass globe with up-to-date NASA images in the world,” Jones said.
In addition to the globe, the museum added several new rooms, such as the Fred & Sue Morris bird gallery, which includes more than 100 different types of birds, and the Apex Predators gallery gifted by George Brimhall.
One of the most anticipated exhibits features wood carvings from President Boyd K. Packer.
“Since youth he was interested in animals and birds,” said Ken Packer, President Packer’s son.
President Packer’s connection to the Bean Museum came through ornithologist Clayton White.
“He used to use the museum specimens for his artwork,” Jones said.
The Museum of Church History and Art used to display President Packer’s collection of wood carvings, but the pieces have been moved permanently to the Bean Museum.
President Packer hand-painted and carved each bird, completing the feathering with a wood burner. The leaves and flowers are made of copper he bent and painted to create beautiful scenes.
Packer said his father used the hobby “to fulfill his creative needs and beautify his home.”
One of the most exceptional pieces was created in 1996, a set of wooden animals and an ark as a gift to President Packer’s grandchildren.
After asking how long each project took, Ken Packer said, “If you keep track you wouldn’t do it.”
The museum also has plenty of new rooms and activities for children. Near the back of the museum a toddler area was completed with a bear den, a nest and slide under the watch of a talking owl.
The voice of the owl is Matt Meese, an actor for Studio C, a comedy program on BYUtv.
Meese lent his talents to the creation of QR codes placed in parts of the museum. The codes lead to online YouTube videos describing the animals and their habitats.
The new design of the museum emphasizes protecting the planet and conserving energy. Two pint-sized superheroes named Ken and Katy can be found on boards across the museum, describing easy ways for children to get involved in protecting their planet.
The superheroes are featured in YouTube videos battling their arch nemesis “Toxic Waste.” Three installments of the two superheroes’ YouTube material will be released in the next few weeks.
Katy Knight, education administrator to the museum, has worked to organize the museum for eight years. She said the most important part of the museum was “the protect-your-planet theme. It teaches a basic concept. The new museum is more education driven.”
Before the museum closed it was well known for its live animal shows, which will return when it reopens. The shows have a few new additions, including three tarantulas.
The grand reopening event and the special family night will have crafts, superheroes and live animal shows involved.
Anyone who posts a picture to Facebook or Instagram showing how to “protect the planet” will be rewarded with a free t-shirt for the opening event.
The grand reopening of the museum promises to bring in people from all over Utah to see the animals and learn about their habitats.
The museum’s additions will teach all those who want to learn. As the entrance quote from Job says, “But ask now the beasts and they shall teach thee: and the fowls of the air and they shall tell thee.”