The University of Wyoming Geological Museum is closing for the summer to get some upgrades. Before it receives its first renovation in decades, the public is invited to take one more look around and a look ahead at a pre-renovation reception this Thursday.

The night will start in the Berry Biodiversity Conservation Center auditorium with a presentation by Terry Chase, the designer of the planned museum improvements, at 7 p.m. Then the group will head over to the Geological Museum to check out the current condition of the museum and view some mock-ups of design ideas.

The museum will remain open to the public through the weekend, although work will begin on dismantling some of the displays. Then the doors will close on Monday, May 7 for the real work to begin.

During the closure the building’s mechanical, electrical, lighting and fire protection systems will be modernized, existing exhibits will be updated and reinstalled, new exhibits will be designed and installed, technology will be upgraded and there could be removal of asbestos in the museum’s floor tiles.

Among the plans for the museum is the idea of rotating displays to feature UW’s extensive collection of fossils and showcase visiting exhibits from around the world. There are also plans to develop more hands-on exhibits to make museum visits an even more meaningful experience for children, who make up a good share of the museum’s visitors.

The renovation marks a significant turnaround for the museum, which had to be closed for the summer in 2009 because of state budget cuts. The shutdown drew attention from fans of the museum and it was able to reopen in August 2009 thanks to private funds from the UW Foundation. Shortly after that, UW supporters Brainerd “Nip” and Anne Mears donated $570,000 to support the museum, which was matched by state funds, to build a $1.14 million endowment.

A total of $700,000 is being used for the renovations this summer. The UW president’s office allocated $500,000 in one-time money for the upgrades and the other $200,000 was generated by the Mears endowment.

The museum currently has no full-time staff and has relied upon a work-study student and two graduate students to be open to the public. The hope is to eventually have several full-time staff members to help the facility, but that will depend upon further financial contributions.

While the UW Geological Museum is at the top of our list of museums in Laramie, it’s certainly not the only one worthy of your time. Check out our top five Laramie museums by clicking here.