The Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum will reopen its doors to the public in Lincoln Park July 8 for the first time in more than a year. And further down the lakefront, the Adler Planetarium on the Museum Campus will reopen for weekend screenings of its sky shows July 3.
According to an announcement Thursday, the Adler will also host public observing events in its new observation park and upgraded Doane Observatory, but the rest of the museum otherwise will remain closed until March 2022.
At the Notebaert (2430 N. Cannon Drive), the initial reopening will be 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, with a full-week reopening planned for Sept. 7. The museum run by the Chicago Academy of Sciences has both indoor exhibits and a quarter mile of outdoor prairie — the prairie and pathways remained open and maintained during the shutdown.
“We actually just did a controlled burn in April on the prairie to get ready,” said vice president for development and marketing Marc Miller on Thursday. The burn and its conservation benefits became an episode of “Curious by Nature,” the museum’s new YouTube series. (Coming next week: A two-part series on cicadas.)
The big attraction indoors is the museum’s top-floor Judy Istock Butterfly Haven, which has been empty save for the birds and turtles for most of the closure — a core of 36 staff members ran the museum’s digital programs and maintained the museum and its live exhibits — but the haven will be repopulated for the July reopening.
“Our first butterfly release will be the morning of July 8,” Miller said.
In case you wanted to know: Butterflies come to the museum from its suppliers, including a number of women-owned businesses overseas, and are shipped via FedEx while they’re in the chrysalis stage.
Also at the museum, a return of the “Weather to Climate” exhibition, which debuted at the museum in 2016, toured nationally and now is back with new content and up through June 2022.
Like most of Chicago’s museums, the nonprofit Notebaert had to resort to staff cuts during the shutdown, some of those laid off employees have since been rehired though overall at lower staffing levels than before.
Masks will be required for museum visitors, tickets available both online and in limited numbers at the front desk; more information at naturemuseum.org.
At the Adler Planetarium (1300 S. Lake Shore Drive), the Grainger Sky Theater is reopening, offering weekend screenings of sky shows under its domed roof (which is in the process of being replaced with new copper tiles). Show titles, times and prices are yet to be announced. Masks will be required for unvaccinated patrons; more information at www.adlerplanetarium.org.
In the museum’s Doane Observatory, a new telescope, described the largest accessible by the public in the Midwest, was installed in February 2020 and has yet to officially open. Visitors will be able to look through it during nighttime observation events to be announced. A renovated observation park between the museum and the lake also will be completed to host events come July.
But the unexpected news is that the rest of the museum will remain closed until March 2022.
“We were hit hard during the pandemic,” said vice president of marketing Ryu Mizuno on Wednesday. The reason for the continued closure is financial. “We’ve developed a timeline for us to reopen in a position of strength,” he said, “so that the impact of the pandemic does not strain our resources.”
Most of the staff let go during the shutdown have not yet been rehired.
The museum found some success with online programs during the shutdown — telescopes and interest in astronomy took off while we were all homebound — including its Skywatch Wednesday and Sky Observers Hangout.
“During the pandemic people took solace and comfort in looking up,” Mizuno said, “and seeing something we all shared together.”