The Toledo Zoo’s historic Museum of Science is being renamed the ProMedica Museum of Natural History after the zoo received its largest charitable gift in its history from the healthcare company.
ProMedica will donate $3.5 million over the next several years for the museum. The donation comes with permanent naming rights for the museum and the two organizations will also develop cooperative programming — including a proposed “doctors as docents” program, when the zoo reopens in the spring of 2019.
Jeff Sailer, chief executive of the zoo, said Monday exhibits centered around biodiversity will be connected to “how human health and well-being is affected by the natural world.”
“We’re always looking for ways to enhance the relevance of what we’re talking about,” he said. “Being able to combine that with how it relates to a person’s quality of life and health makes it a lot more accessible than just having a good feeling about animals. It really goes back to what it means about the environment we’re living in and how that can impact your quality of life.”
Randy Oostra, chief executive of ProMedica, said the company and the zoo have been discussing a partnership for about two years.
“One of the great things about Toledo is the camaraderie, the cooperation among the institutions,” he said. “We have this great ability to work together” for the benefit of everyone.
Noting that the zoo draws more than 1 million visitors per year, Mr. Oostra said the museum project presented an ideal opportunity to spark children’s interest in science, technology, engineering, and math — or STEM — related careers.
“We add another M to that for medicine,” Mr. Oostra said. “The strength of the education opportunity here is great. We invest a lot of money into education in our community.”
Mr. Sailer used a planned exhibit on venom as an example of how the two organizations’ messages can be intertwined.
Venom “has so many different applications for human health,” he said. “You have control of rodent populations that reduce disease risk, but also all the different pharmaceuticals that are now being produced from venoms. ... You can take apart those venoms and use the individual components to address medical needs.”
Mr. Sailer said the zoo is working to make museum exhibits “interactive, immersive, diverse, and accessible.”
“We’re using those words in all their different definitions,” he said. “We’ll have a whole range of your senses engaged when you’re in there. We want that interactive nature, for the visitor to come in and really be a part of the experience.”
Zoo officials have been brainstorming with ProMedica physicians and others about potential programming options, Mr. Sailer said, but have not yet settled on what that may look like.
The zoo is also continuing its efforts to preserve the historic structure constructed by the Works Progress Administration and dedicated in 1936, while updating and returning it to a more relevant and efficient use. The building had most recently housed primarily administrative and classroom space with a few exhibits.
“It’s a spectacular use of this old building,” Mr. Sailer said.
The $27 million project is part of the zoo’s 10-year master plan. About 70 percent of the funding is coming from the zoo’s capital levy, and about 23 percent was raised through the zoo’s foundation, private funds, donations, and grants. The remaining 7 percent will come from earned operations revenue.
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