After more than 20 years of planning, the Steinhardt Museum of Natural History finally opened last week in Tel Aviv. The 100,000-square-foot building is now the largest natural history museum in the Middle East. Shaped like Noah’s Ark, the museum houses more than 5.5 million specimens of animal and plant species from around the world – all on display in an effort to educate, increase appreciation, and promote preservation.
The museum presents eight permanent exhibitions, displaying thousands of items from the national natural history collections that previously available only to scholars at Tel Aviv University and several other museums in Israel, as well as one temporary exhibition.
Traditional dioramas and innovative interactive displays spread across several floors are connected by sloped rampways, allowing a continuous, flowing movement without any real need to climb stairs.
The museum includes items that have been collected since the end of the 19th century, such as the collection of German zoologist and Catholic priest Ernst Johann Schmitz, who lived in Israel a century ago. In the “Treasures of Biodiversity” exhibit, Schmitz’s taxidermy pieces include the last bear from 1916, an Asiatic cheetah from 1911, and the last crocodile from the Taninim River, all species that have become extinct in Israel.