Extensive, Long-Envisioned Wildlife Exhibit Nears Completion At Children's Museum
It's been years of planning, discussion and sweat to get a dream to come to reality. Skip Erickson has had a vision of a wildlife exhibit that would not only show some of his prized hunting trophies, but help teach and educate children and the public on habitats, animals and conservation.
While the Children's Museum of Northeast Montana has helped house 50 kids in June for two art camps, two science camps and a backyard explorer camp, work has continued on the wildlife exhibit that will be a positive addition. Erickson said that the progress has been a little slower than anticipated, but it has been consistent.
"At first it's going to look a little like Noah's ark," Erickson said. "But then we'll begin to have some better placement as we go."
He explained that the trim will be completed in the next few weeks and carpet should be laid out by the first week of August. Once the carpet rolls out, the animals will start moving into the building. Erickson said that he's still waiting on some specimens that will arrive over the next nine months, but approximately 80 stuffed mammals, 110 fish and birds and 170 items will fill the space.
At least 20 different venues will help portray the different habitats and regions where the animals came from. Erickson has hunted the animals all over the world, some with this exhibit in mind. Organizations and clubs have stepped in to donate and help with the project and keep it going. Signage is being created to name the animals and give information on their habitats. Volunteers have stepped up to help move the animals when the time comes. Because of their odd shapes and sizes, the moving could take a lot of effort.
Those who come to view the exhibit when it is open can expect to see a white Russian elk, African lions, bears, a kangaroo and more. A 725 pound, 12-foot and 6-inch American alligator will also welcome guests. Erickson said that many of the animals would be off limits to touch but having hides, furs, bones, skulls and hooves would be a part of the display.
"We're working on areas for more hands-on," Erickson said. "It's part of the educational aspect."
Cultural artifacts will also be placed near the habitats so children can learn a little about the people who live near the animals. While several displays haven't been figured out yet, it will be a little trial and error until the project is complete. Once it's completed, some of the animals could be added or changed to freshen up the exhibit in future years.
"We still have a lot to do yet," Erickson said.
While an exact date of opening hasn't been given yet, the exhibit should be opened by mid-August. The children's museum is also working on a goal to raise $50,000 to help replace the floor and windows for safety and energy efficiency. Donations have come in from clubs and individuals and raised $10,000 so far. The loft of the museum, which will be a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) focused area has also made progress in the first half of the year. The museum is looking for grants to help with the flooring and windows, but is welcoming help from the community.