Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum retiring climate change exhibit, increasing admission

After a six-year run, the climate change exhibit at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum will close Feb. 5 to make way for an immersive gallery of Chicago-area nature that's expected to open in April.

Visitors have less than a week to experience "Weather to Climate: Our Changing World." The exhibit explores the fundamentals of weather and climate while demonstrating the science and impacts of global warming through art installations, animal specimens and even a chance to be a climate meteorologist in a green-screen studio.

The Weather to Climate exhibit debuted in 2016 and went on to spend four years traveling across the country to museums in Boston, Minnesota and elsewhere before returning to the Notebaert museum in 2021.

Originally crafted to battle misinformation about climate change, the exhibit brings the realities of global warming before the viewer, chief curator Alvaro Ramos said.

"The whole aspect of climate change was really, for the longest time, a conversation that was sort of in the imagination," he said. "People would hear about things like tsunamis or these massive floods or incredibly violent storms, but they always seemed to be happening somewhere else."

The exhibit's key message is that while climate change affects our weather, weather isn't necessarily climate. Instead, it was important to Ramos that visitors left the space understanding how the two are intrinsically connected.

"There could have been a chance that it would have been really unpopular, but actually the opposite happened. We found out that people are really interested in the information in regard to climate change, and they wanted more," Ramos said. "They weren't afraid of the truth."

Ramos added that if there was one message he hoped the exhibit has left its visitors with over the last six years, it's that the climate issue is a solvable one.

"Some of the challenges we face in regard to climate change can be really scary and overwhelming. But as a human species, we got ourselves into this particular challenge, and we can overcome it," he said. "We want them to learn something, but also want them to know that they have a say in this."

While the museum plans to continue improving the exhibit and making it available to other institutions, Ramos said the closure, which had been pushed back due to the coronavirus pandemic, was long overdue.

"It's been long past the time that it would have been taken down and replaced with another exhibit. I would say the decision to close the exhibit really reflects this idea of going back into normalcy," Ramos said. "We're open again, and the Nature Museum is not going away. We're strong, we survived the pandemic with the closures, and we want to continue bringing people as close to nature as possible."

The museum will continue to be open to the public daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., with free admission for children younger than 3. Illinois residents also receive free admission each Thursday.

The space will next feature projections of images from local nature photographer Mike MacDonald. The museum is also tentatively planning for an additional climate change exhibit for the fall of 2024, though it has an array of changes on the horizon between now and then.

With recently appointed President and CEO Erin Amico at the helm, the museum will open its long awaited Sustainability Center this fall, featuring rotating exhibits and spotlights on people making a difference in sustainable living.

The museum will also see increased admission prices for the first time in 15 years starting Feb. 1. Museum members will be allowed early entry as early as 9 a.m. Sundays and Tuesdays starting Feb. 5.

The updated admissions range from $8 to $15 for Illinois residents based on visitor age and discounts, whereas current prices range from $6 to $9.

"We are excited about the growth and evolution at the Nature Museum to further diversify our audience and ability to deliver dynamic and engaging exhibits and education and conservation programs which impact every neighborhood in Chicago," Amico said in a statement. "This change in admission was not a decision that was made lightly, but with intention, so we can continue this important work for the next century and beyond."

• Jenny Whidden is a Report For America corps member covering climate change and the environment for the Daily Herald. To help support her work with a tax-deductible donation, see

Chief curator Alvaro Ramos said he hopes visitors leave "Weather to Climate: Our Changing World" with more knowledge - and with an understanding that the climate issue is a solvable one. COURTESY OF THE PEGGY NOTEBAERT NATURE MUSEUM
Two spinning wheels match up different species with extreme climatic conditions, displaying on a screen what the outcome would be for that species. COURTESY OF THE PEGGY NOTEBAERT NATURE MUSEUM
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