Museums around the country are freshening up this spring - in some cases, opening new exhibition wings or fully revamped spaces, just in time for the tourist season. Here's a look at three significant openings.
1. ECOSYSTEMS EXPERIENCE
Watch maggots munch on liver. Stand in the path of a flash flood. Roam around a kelp forest.
Nearly 10 years in the making, the $165-million Ecosystems Experience opened in March with its one-of-a-kind view of the world. Plants, animals and do-it-yourself science take up nearly every inch of the two-story, 45,000-square-foot exhibit in Exposition Park, south of downtown. Temperatures, lighting and learning change in the 11 environments on display in this combination aquarium, zoo, school and arcade.
The highlight is a 24-foot-long transparent tunnel through a 188,000-gallon tank that puts you face to face with 1,500 horn sharks, swell sharks, giant sea bass, wolf eels, bat rays and other fish swimming in a kelp forest.
2. KENTUCKY DERBY MUSEUM
WHERE Louisville, Ky.
ADMISSION $12 ($10 ages 13-18)
Fresh off a $5.5-million restoration to repair damage from a serious flood last year, the Kentucky Derby Museum will reopen April 18, just in time for the annual famed thoroughbred horse race, scheduled for May 1 this year. The new main floor will feature exhibits centered on the celebrity and fashion aspects of the annual event (including two dresses worn by the late Anna Nicole Smith to Kentucky Derby races). The second level will chronicle champion Derby horses, jockeys and owners.
3. THE DAVID H. KOCH HALL OF HUMAN ORIGINS
WHERE Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, Washington, D.C.
What does it mean to be human? That's the question posed at this new 15,000-square-foot wing of the Smithsonian's Natural History museum. Visitors trace human evolution over 6 million years. More than 75 replicas of human skulls are displayed - much of the exhibit focuses on aspects of evolution relating to climate change, survival and extinction.
Interactive exhibits encourage visitors to envision what humans might look like in the future and study mankind's impact on the environment. There's also a brief multimedia presentation. The Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History is the most-visited museum in the country - more than 7.4 million visitors in 2009.