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7 less-famous natural history museums worth a visit

By: Matt Hickman on July 1, 2013, 11:03 a.m.
University of Michigan natural history museum fossil

Photo: Peter Smith/Museum of Natural History at the University of Michigan

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Museum of Natural History at the University of Michigan

Established: 1956 in Ann Arbor, Mich.

Head count: About 100,000 annual visitors

Beyond the fossils: Dedicated exclusively to the development of exhibits and educational programs, the Museum of Natural History at the University of Michigan does indeed boast a whole lot of dino-themed displays — the museum’s Hall of Evolution is the most extensive collection of prehistoric life in the state of Michigan. Beyond the towering T-Rex and mastodon mounts, however, visitors will find strong permanent and temporary exhibits including the taxidermy-heavy Michigan Wildlife Gallery, a butterfly garden and top-notch anthropology and geology displays.

A favorite attraction of amateur astrologers and avid night sky watchers — and those being dragged along with them — is the museum’s planetarium, a state-of-the-art facility equipped with a Uniview all-dome digital projection system that “places the viewer anywhere from the surface of the earth, out to the edge of the known Universe” in an “immersive” film experience that’s billed as being “overwhelming, exciting, and beautiful” (and also perhaps nausea-inducing).