UConn critic to meet with university about museum relocation

The former Museum of Natural History now holds the CLAS Academic Services Center. (Ruohan Li/ The Daily Campus)

The former lawmaker who claimed that the University of Connecticut broke the law in relocating the Connecticut State Museum of Natural History said that he plans to meet with university officials regarding their decision.

The Connecticut State Museum of Natural History was established by a Senate Bill in 1985. The museum was formerly located in a building on Hillside Road before being relocated in August 2016 to make room for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Academic Services Center.

Jonathan Pelto, a former Connecticut state house representative, claimed in November that the museum needed to reside in a physical location to satisfy the requirements of the law.

While the museum no longer has a physical location, University Spokesman Tom Breen said in November that since the museum was still operating and running programs around campus, even without a physical location, it could still fulfill its mission.

“The Connecticut State Museum of Natural History continues to develop dynamic programming and exhibits in keeping with its mission of research and public education,” Breen said. “One of the more exciting exhibits, scheduled to open in April at the Bio-Physics Building, will highlight the Carl and Marian Rettenmeyer Army Ant Guest Collection.”

Pelto said that in light of the claim he has filed a Freedom of Information Act request for documents involved in the decision to move the museum and is planning to meet with university administrators.

“It’s really a part of an ongoing effort to get the university to change its policy,” Pelto said. “[The museum] was never about a traveling exhibit. [The university] doesn’t have the legal authority to close the museum.”

As well, Pelto said that he had met with people who had donated money to the museum’s renovations, when it was still located in the Hillside Road building.

The museum had used money from private donors to partially fund renovations for the building, in order to make it more exhibit-friendly. Once the museum was relocated, the funds were unusable. Pelto said that many of the donors he had spoken to were surprised at this.

“Everyone was shocked and angry,” Pelto said “No one saw it coming. I’ve yet to find a single person who think that (the relocation) was a good idea, other than the university officials who made the decision.”

Pelto said that while he is advocating for the museum to reopen in a physical location, ultimately it is up to the university as to where it will go next.

“I think the university acted without knowing some of the [museum’s] history,” he said. “I think it is the university’s decision (on) where the museum is going to go. I do think that the university needs to have a museum.”  


Marlese Lessing is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at marlese.lessing@uconn.edu. She tweets @marlese_lessing.