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The King of Dinosaurs

Museum unveils new Human Origins Gallery

Sept. 12, 2013


Glenda Bogar, 216-231-2071
800-317-9155, ext. 3363

Museum Unveils New Human Origins Gallery Showcasing Lifelike Reconstruction of "Lucy" as Centerpiece

Cleveland . . . Get ready to go back in time to meet a brand-new, lifelike "Lucy." The Cleveland Museum of Natural History is pleased to announce the opening of its new Human Origins Gallery. The newly renovated gallery on human evolution is based on current scientific knowledge in the field of paleoanthropology. The centerpiece of the exhibition is two new reconstructions of "Lucy," the famous 3.2 million-year-old partial fossil skeleton of the species Australopithecus afarensis discovered in Ethiopia in 1974 by Dr. Donald Johanson, a former curator at the Museum. The Museum invites visitors to tour the gallery when it opens to the public Sept. 20, 2013 at 11:30 a.m.

Developed under the direction of Dr. Yohannes Haile-Selassie, curator of physical anthropology at the Museum, the gallery will be a permanent exhibition at the institution. The Museum has a long history as a major contributor in the field of human evolutionary studies. The fieldwork and research of its past and present scientists have unearthed groundbreaking discoveries that shed light into our ancient past.

"We are thrilled to unveil this dynamic and engaging exhibition that highlights major discoveries and ongoing research into human origins," said Dr. Evalyn Gates, executive director and CEO of The Cleveland Museum of Natural History. "The gallery showcases the latest science and offers visitors an opportunity to view historically significant fossils and learn about recent discoveries made by the Museum's renowned scientists. Now, the visiting public will be able to see a tangible display underscoring the Museum's role as one of the world's key centers for human evolutionary research."

The new Human Origins Gallery explores the evolution of various early human ancestor species and outlines the physical changes through time leading to modern humans. The exhibition is organized into seven thematic stages based on milestones. It also features a special section that celebrates current research of the Museum's curators.

"This new gallery will be one of the most up-to-date human evolution galleries in the world," said Haile-Selassie. "It includes casts of early human ancestor fossils that are currently under active research. Starting with our place in nature as primates, the gallery traces the entire journey we have traveled for almost 6 million years to become who we are today—a large-brained animal living in a digital age."

Lucy will greet visitors, serving as the focal point of the gallery with two brand-new versions of her reconstruction—lifelike and skeletal—on display. Posed in a striding position, they will be arranged back to back. Museum artisans sculpted skeletal elements, cast 102 pieces in resin and painstakingly assembled the mount of the famous partial skeleton. The articulated mount reflects current knowledge of the individual's anatomy based on new fossil evidence. It features a newly sculpted and reshaped rib cage handcrafted from foam and a spine that more accurately represents the curvature of the lower back.

Sharing the spotlight with the new Lucy skeletal mount will be a strikingly lifelike sculpture created by internationally renowned paleoartist John Gurche. This fully "fleshed-out" model details the muscular build and facial features of the upright walking Lucy. The award-winning artist sculpted the work in clay from the Museum's skeleton cast, then molded and cast the piece in silicone. It was then painted and implanted with natural-looking eyes and hair.

Overall, the Human Origins Gallery features more than 40 specimens, including fossil casts. Among the key specimens is a cast of "Kadanuumuu," a specimen of Lucy's species recently discovered by an international team led by Haile-Selassie that is still under active research. In addition to specimen displays, visitors can engage in hands-on and media-based interactive exhibits.

The gallery was designed and built by the Museum's exhibits team. Dr. Denise Su, curator of paleobotany and paleoecology, collaborated on the project.

"This project offered a rare opportunity to bring the research of our curators and their colleagues to life," said Joel Alpern, director of exhibits. "The modern gallery is designed for visitors of all ages to better understand human origins—and to have fun while learning."

The Museum's former human evolution gallery was created nearly three decades ago. Because there have been many exciting new discoveries and advances in the field of human evolutionary studies in the last 30 years, a complete renovation and expansion was undertaken. This new gallery serves as a small preview of the new exhibits that will be developed as part of the Museum's major transformation project, scheduled to begin construction in 2015. In addition, the gallery will allow Museum staff to evaluate visitor response to the new exhibits, further informing the process of updating the Museum.

The Human Origins Gallery is free with Museum admission. Admission fees are: Adults (19 and older): $12; youth (ages 3-18), college students (with ID), seniors (60+): $10; toddlers (2 and younger): free. Shafran Planetarium shows are $4 with general admission.

The Cleveland Museum of Natural History receives public support with local tax dollars from Cuyahoga Arts & Culture, to preserve and enrich the region's artistic and cultural heritage.

About The Cleveland Museum of Natural History
The Cleveland Museum of Natural History, incorporated in 1920, is one of the finest institutions of its kind in North America. It is noted for its collections, research, educational programs and exhibits. The collections encompass more than 5 million artifacts and specimens, and research of global significance focuses on 11 natural science disciplines. The Museum conserves biological diversity through the protection of more than 5,400 acres of natural areas. It promotes health education with local programs and distance learning that extends across the globe. Its GreenCityBlueLake Institute is a center of thought and practice for the design of green and sustainable cities.