Lions and mammoths that once roamed Ohio are big part of new museum at The Toledo Zoo

Published: Oct. 29, 2018 at 5:32 PM EDT
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It's one of the most recognizable buildings at The Toledo Zoo, but there haven't been a lot of big events at the museum for decades.

However that's about to change, as the old building is in the middle of a multi-million dollar makeover. It's being transformed into the ProMedica Museum of Natural History.

The museum originally opened in the 1930s. It's being restored from top to bottom. Like a number of other buildings at the zoo, the museum was a Works Progress Administration or WPA project.

Jennifer Van Horn is the Director of Construction and Planning, "The old buildings have such great bones."

The restoration project covers every inch of the building, "It's interesting, if you talk to the public a lot of people don't really remember much about the museum because it's been about 30 years since there was a big showing at the museum."

But the museum is about to become a big draw for the zoo. There will be all kinds of exhibits focused on the world around us now and thousands of years ago, "I think getting people to understand and care about our natural world and show people the biodiversity of the region.Is so important. We will be able to do that with this new museum."

A big part of accomplishing that will be done with large scale animals.

Many of the giant creatures will take people back to a time thousands of years ago when animals like lions and mammoths roamed this region. Yes, there were once lions and mammoths here in Ohio.

Jeremy Link is a co-owner of Graphite Design + Build, "My business partner and I have been dinosaur and nature nerds our entire lives, so this is a dream job for both of us. Doing all the research for this, and working to get all the animals bodies correct and learning about all the animals that were in Ohio so long ago, is a lot of fun."

So how do you bring the creatures to life? It all starts with a big piece of Styrofoam, "We usually start with Styrofoam because it is easy to move around, it's affordable and easy to carve. After that we go to fiberglass or any sort of plastic coating to protect the foam."

Jeremy hopes the new museum inspires a whole new generation to appreciate the environment and the arts, "we always think about when we went to museums and zoos when we were little and what made us want to do this kind of work. As we create the animals, we think about the kids coming in and learning and possibly wanting to go into art themselves. "

The restoration work has a price tag of about $27 million. The ProMedica Museum of Natural History will be open in May 2019.