Press Release

Stephanie Stone (415) 379-5121

Andrew Ng (415) 379-5123



SAN FRANCISCO (January 3, 2008) — On January 7, The California Academy of Sciences will officially embark on the most massive move ever undertaken by a museum, transporting millions of priceless treasures across the city of San Francisco into their new home in Golden Gate Park. More than 20 million scientific specimens collected over the past 150 years from around the world will make the monumental move, along with penguins, parrots, pythons, piranhas, and thousands of other live aquarium animals. These specimens and animals, which currently reside at the Academy's temporary facility in downtown San Francisco, will form the backbone of the new Academy's research, education, and exhibition programs when the new museum opens in Golden Gate Park in the Fall of 2008.

A parade of unprecedented proportions, the Academy's “Great Migration” will take approximately eight months from start to finish. Participants will range from two million fish specimens stored in jars of alcohol (including some species that are now extinct) to Methuselah, the Australian lungfish—the oldest living fish in captivity. The packing and moving tactics that will be employed are unique and highly customized. In the coming months, a colony of African penguins will be loaded into dog kennels lined with recycled newspaper pellets, a 58 year-old alligator gar will be lifted by stretcher into a transport tank, live snakes will be slipped into soft canvas bags, and 1,500 colonies of living coral will be individually packed in plastic bags full of carefully regulated water. Thousands of Galapagos finch study skins (the group studied by Darwin) and over 10,000 sets of bird nests and eggs will be stabilized with bubble wrap, millions of pressed and dried plant specimens will be tied into secure bundles, and a 1,350-pound quartz cluster will be hoisted into a moving van. Among the most delicate participants in the migration, more than 700,000 pinned butterflies and moths will be stabilized with additional pins and handled with extra care to prevent their wings from being jostled. Rather than cardboard boxes, reusable plastic bins that can be securely stacked on top of one another will be used to complete the move as efficiently and “greenly” as possible. For the first six months of the move, transport trucks will be loaded and sent to the Academy's new building in Golden Gate Park five times a day, five days a week. The aquarium's live animal transport will continue on a more sporadic basis for another two months.

The Academy's specimen collections are an invaluable research tool for scientists around the world, collectively serving as an expansive reference library of Earth's life forms. The collections contain a number of specimens, such as the Elephant bird and the Falkland Island fox, which are now extinct. These specimens preserve some of the only genetic and anatomical information that remains about many extinct species. Perhaps more importantly, the collections allow scientists to create biodiversity maps, highlighting those ecosystems and environments that are most critically in need of protection if we wish to avoid future extinctions. Data embedded in the Academy's specimen collections also allow scientists to track species ranges and environmental pollutants over time, as well as evolutionary pathways and climate change patterns. Once these specimens are nested into their new high-density, compactable storage cabinets, they will take up about 360,000 cubic feet—the equivalent of a 10-foot-wide by nine-foot tall strip of cabinets that runs the length of over 13 football fields.

The live animals that will participate in the move will fill the new Academy's aquarium displays, natural history exhibits, and living rainforest dome, bringing new life to timely topics such as evolution and sustainability. Representing over 900 separate species, these animals will comprise one of the most diverse assemblages of live animals at any museum or aquarium around the world.

About the new California Academy of Sciences Building

One of the world's most innovative museum building programs, the record-setting new California Academy of Sciences building will blend seamlessly into San Francisco's Golden Gate Park. Expected to earn a LEED Platinum certification, the new Academy will be topped with a 2.5-acre living roof and will employ a wide range of energy-saving materials and technologies. Designed by Pritzker Prize winner Renzo Piano, the new building will stand as an embodiment of the Academy's mission to explore, explain and protect the natural world. With interpretive signage about its green features and a roof-top observation deck, the building will also serve as an exhibit in and of itself. Construction on the exterior of the new facility, which began in September of 2005, was completed at the end of October 2007. The Academy received the keys to the building on November 1, and has now begun the process of building out the exhibits and moving its collection of live animals and research specimens into their new home.

The California Academy of Sciences is home to Steinhart Aquarium, Morrison Planetarium and the Kimball Natural History Museum. The Academy is in the midst of an extensive rebuilding project in Golden Gate Park. Pritzker prize-winning architect Renzo Piano is designing the new Academy, which is scheduled to open on September 27, 2008. (415) 379-8000.

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