Gala & Glow

A heartfelt thank you to all who celebrated the museum’s 50th anniversary — and the completion of our metamorphosis into the new Delaware Museum of Nature and Science — at our Gala and Glow on Friday, May 13, 2022.

Research Headquarters

How we know what we know:

In the Research Headquarters, sponsored by DuPont, explore stories about scientific research and related projects from our local area and beyond.

Scientists help us better understand the world around us. They conduct research in all kinds of environments: in the field, in the laboratory, and even in the museum’s natural history collections. They observe animals and plants in the air, on the land, and in the water. They conduct experiments and collect data to test their observations. Over time, they draw conclusions based on what they find, helping us make sense of what’s happening on the planet. What we know changes as scientists gather and share new information.

Tucked into the Regional Journey Gallery, the Research Headquarters currently includes stories about the Delaware Shorebird Project and the juvenile humpback whale collected by museum scientists in 2018. Other stories currently on view also include some of the research behind DuPont’s Kalrez® technology, citizen science project Coast Snap by Delaware Sea Grant, and exploring with carnivore ecologist Rae Wynn-Grant, courtesy of the IF/THEN® Collection.

On the back end, the stories in the Research Headquarters are installed in a content management system created by digital design studio RLMG. It’s set up so new stories can be uploaded seasonally.

Stories involving museum scientists

The juvenile humpback whale skull was weighed on its way to the museum.

A tale of a whale

A juvenile humpback whale died at sea and washed ashore near Port Mahon, Delaware. The whale, one of 34 humpback whales stranded on the East Coast in 2017, presented an opportunity to tell this important story at the Delaware Museum of Nature & Science. But first, museum staff had to determine how to retrieve the 280 lbs. skull from the beach.

Shorebirds at Mispillion Harbor.

Shorebirds on the bay

Each spring millions of horseshoe crabs migrate into Delaware Bay to lay their eggs on sandy beaches. At the same time, nearly half a million shorebirds arrive to rest and refuel on their way to breed on the Arctic Tundra. Their primary food is horseshoe crab eggs. The Delaware Shorebird Project studies the birds and the importance of the bay to their survival. Learn more about the Delaware Shorebird Project.

Stories from our partners

DuPont’s Kalrez® technology

From aerospace and chemical processing to chip manufacturing and oil and gas applications, DuPont™ Kalrez® elastomers are engineered to provide more stability, more resistance, and more effective sealing. Learn more about this technology from DuPont scientists. Learn more about Kalrez®. 

Coast Snap by Delaware Sea Grant

To manage coastlines, we need to understand how they behave. Delaware Sea Grant’s CoastSnap is a citizen science program harnessing smartphones and orthophotogrammetry to help scientists learn more about the shoreline. By using CoastSnap, the community becomes an integral part of the science team. Learn more about CoastSnap.

From the IF/THEN® Collection

Image by Tsalani Lassiter, courtesy of the IF/THEN® Collection

Carnivore ecologist Rae Wynn-Grant, courtesy of the IF/THEN® Collection

Rae Wynn-Grant, Ph.D. might just have the coolest job on the planet. As a carnivore ecologist working for National Geographic, she researches how endangered species are impacted by human interaction. Her work currently focuses on grizzly bears in Montana, but has previously taken her around the world — including to Tanzania and Kenya to study lions. The If/Then Collection is a digital asset library of women STEM innovators. Learn more about the If/Then® Collection.

The Research Headquarters is sponsored by DuPont

Coral Reef

One of the most frequent questions asked about our exhibits: “Is the coral reef staying?”

It is! The museum’s popular coral reef exhibit is getting a new look, with updated and refurbished elements. The scene is designed to look like Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. The exhibit features a wide variety of corals — the animals that make the coral reefs — in many shapes, sizes, and colors. In addition, fish, mollusks and other specimens are represented.

A flock of new specimens

Look up into the trees in the Regional Journey Gallery, and you’ll see birds and small mammals perched on branches and tucked into crevices. Among the new additions added to the galleries recently include a variety of bird taxidermy, including a dramatic Bald Eagle, owls, woodpeckers, a Kingfisher and a family of Wood Ducks, with more scheduled for installation soon. Take a look at some of the newest arrivals.

Metamorphosis in Progress

Take a look at some of the new exhibit components and other changes happening at the museum!

Getting ahead on the renovations: first exhibit components installed

The museum’s renovations entered a new phase with the recent installation of the first exhibit components in the Alison K. Bradford Global Journey Gallery and the Ellice and Rosa McDonald Foundation PaleoZone. The specimens and models include the African elephant model head, a juvenile humpback whale skull collected by DMNH staff in 2018, a T. rex skull model, and a new array of Cretaceous creatures.

The elephant head was the only one previously on exhibit. Because of its size and weight, rigging was set up by Bruce Industrial to bring it down from the wall in January, and to hang it in its new location as part of the African savanna exhibit. For most of the year, it sat covered up in the museum foyer, under the giant squid, as it was too tall to move into the Ederic Exhibit Hall where the majority of the taxidermy and other exhibit components have been stored. Before reinstallation, the elephant was refurbished by conservators.

The whale skull was restored, articulated, and installed by Dan DenDanto of Whales and Nails in Maine. Preparing a whale skull for exhibit is not a simple task because of the amount of oils in the bones. The humpback whale exhibit is sponsored by M&T Bank and Wilmington Trust.

Entering the PaleoZone, guests will be greeted by a new T. rex model skull. Inside the area, guests are encouraged to explore the Mid-Atlantic during the Cretaceous period with a Dryptosaurus dinosaur, a Nyctosaur soaring through the air, and the aquatic Mosasaurus. The models were created by Research Casting International.

Asbestos Abatement: Preparing Taxidermy

Among the dramatic taxidermy appearing in the new Museum galleries is a Polar Bear (Ursus maritimus). The bear will stand on a model iceberg in the Arctic tundra exhibit as part of the Global Journey Gallery.

Currently in storage in the Collections & Research Division, the specimen needed to be removed from its stand and prepared for exhibit. As part of the process, the Museum hired local company Harvard Environmental, Inc. for testing of the taxidermy. Asbestos was found in the simulated ice used on the base, and remediation was necessary.

Made from mineral fibers, asbestos known to be an incredibly dangerous carcinogen causing long-term health issues including asbestosis, a chronic lung disease, and mesothelioma, a malignant and incurable cancer. Its use is now regulated by the federal government as well as state governments, and when found must be abated.

Asbestos was frequently used in taxidermy preparation in the past. A 1979 report by the Center for Disease Control of Jonas Brothers Taxidermy Co. in Denver, Colorado noted:

“Ground asbestos is used to mix with plaster and dextrine in order to form a putty mixture. These ingredients are mixed while dry and with little or no ventilation. The asbestos itself is contained in an open vessel where workers use it by the handfuls. When this mixture has hardened, it is often times sanded to achieve proper contours. The resulting dust filters through the air.”

Asbestos is no longer used in taxidermy preparation, and is now primarily an issue when the material is disturbed, such as in the case of the removal of the polar bear’s stand. While the history of the polar bear specimen is not known, there are other objects in the collections prepared by the Jonas Brothers Company, including a walrus taxidermy and the elephant head model, both planned for the Delaware Museum of Nature & Science galleries.

As part of abatement, the feet of the bear were carefully wrapped to keep them safely isolated from any dust created during the process. County Environmental Company removed the asbestos, with Harvard Environmental conducting air monitoring. A “bubble room” was created to contain any airborne particles, and the team working on the project wore protective gear. After the simulated ice was removed, the base was cleaned and treated with a sealer to encapsulate any possible remaining dust and make it safe for museum staff to work with.