The museum's exhibitions are housed in multiple permanent galleries. There is also a changing exhibition hall, an outdoor science garden, nature trails, a state-of-the-art planetarium, and an observatory.
Light Lab, an ingeniously subtle science lesson, is a space designed to encourage curiosity. Constructed of textured concrete block and seven different kinds of glass, Light Lab rises nearly 40 feet and showers visitors with patterned light and color as the sun’s rays pass through the glass. The principles of reflection, refraction, absorption, transmission, diffraction and diffusion are illustrated.
This exhibit features several displays. The Astronomy Gallery includes ViewSpace, an internet-fed, self-updating, permanent exhibit from the Space Telescope Science Institute, home of NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and its successor, the James Webb Space Telescope. Rocks from Space highlights meteorites collected from around the world. Accompanying the meteorite display is an exhibit devoted to tools of Astronomy, including sundials, astrolabes and solar system models taken from the Institute’s collection. The Astronomy Gallery also includes a mechanical model of our solar system known as a Copernican Orrery.
Every Rock Has A Story
Every Rock Has a Story presents information on the materials that make up the Earth and the processes that have shaped the globe over time. Was Michigan once located in the tropics? Will California crumble into the Pacific Ocean? The earth is constantly changing right under your feet and the exciting results range from earthquakes and volcanoes to granite and diamonds. Whether it's a tiny crystal or a massive mountain, rocks and minerals reveal our planet's history and offer clues to our future as plates shift, minerals grow, volcanoes erupt and earthquakes shake.
Flint Anthropology Gallery
This gallery highlights more than 100 Native American objects from the Institute's collections in an exhibit entitled By Native Hands. Video clips and a soundtrack narrative tell the story of native peoples of the Great Lakes region and illustrates the impact new influences had on their way of life.
This immersive exhibit style is new for the Institute. Very little written text is used, rather visitors experience the exhibit through sound, light, brilliant images and carefully highlighted artifacts.
Ice Ages Come And Go
This exhibit presents climatic variations that have buried Michigan under ice over and over again. Hands-on interactives and visual diagrams help visitors explore issues like seasons, heat distribution and how heat travels across the globe.
Discover how Michigan's landscape was carved by the comings and goings of glaciers.
Learn that the sun is the engine that powers climate change on Earth.
See and touch a huge rock with grooves carved by glaciers.
Ice Age Survivors
Ice Age Survivors focuses on large animals or megafauna (>45 kg / 100 lbs.) that survived the last pulse of the Late Quaternary extinctions in North America, that occurred between 11,500 and 10,000 radiocarbon years ago. This event had a profound influence on the character of the modern fauna in North America and throughout the world.
Life Changes Over Time
Come face to face with a full-sized Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton cast and examine natural selection and evolution by exploring the question "Are birds the descendants of dinosaurs?"
Discover what dinosaur features (like those of Deinonychus) are shared in common with birds.
Discover how ancient birds like Archaeopteryx have many dinosaur-like features.
Mastodons Did Not Survive
This exhibit examines extinction through the example of the mastodon, which used to be plentiful in Michigan during the last ice age.
Learn about animals that went extinct by the close of the last ice age like Mammut americanum, the American mastodon; Smilodon fatalis, the sabre toothed cat; Camelops hesternus, the western camel; and Glyptotherium floridanus, the North American glyptodont.
Discover how human hunting may have caused the extinction of some North American mammals.
Mineral Study Gallery
Cranbrook founder George Booth started this mineral collection in 1926 with only a few hundred specimens. Since then, it has grown to more than 11,000 specimens, including 300 minerals from Michigan, such as gypsum, copper and halite (that’s table salt!). Right now, there are approximately 1,800 specimens on view in the Mineral Study Gallery.
This exhibit provides a wonderful photo opportunity to get your picture taken in front of the jaws of one of most dangerous ocean-going apex predators in history, Megalodon! As you get your photo taken, discover some interesting facts about this giant fish and examine a real fossil tooth.
Lose your fear of physics with hands-on experiments that demonstrate the basic yet profound concepts of matter in motion. The Motion Gallery encourages imagination and finesse as you “play” with physics, illustrating how matter – including you – travels, balances, spins and collides.
Every object - a pair of shoes, a necklace, a flag - holds different meanings for different people, and how we decode objects varies depending on culture, previous experience and prior knowledge. Reading Objects invites you to explore your own methods of decoding as you describe objects, discover what you can about them and uncover the secrets they hold.
The Story of Us
The Story of Us showcases the very best of the Institute’s nationally-regarded anthropology collection and offers an immersion experience unprecedented at Cranbrook. Visitors will experience the exhibition with the help of a virtual holographic-like personal guide and use individual touch-screen interfaces to learn more about objects that interest them.
Referencing more than 300 stunning cultural objects from around the world, “Meg,” the virtual guide, encourages us to better understand the human story by examining a wide range of global material culture including vessels, hunting and fishing tools, clothing, jewelry, armor, masks, religious paraphernalia and more.
Retained as originally created, these dioramas of Michigan plant associations capture both a reminder of the Institute's past and a glimpse of habitats increasingly threatened throughout the state.
Water Is Like Nothing Else
Dive in to explore water and why it is so important to life. The interactive Our Great Lakes Watershed exhibit examines how precious the world's freshwater supply is and what we as individuals can do to help protect it. See and touch a cast of the floor of a now extinct 500,000-year-old sea or make it rain, hail, sleet or snow by adjusting moisture levels in the air and temperatures on the ground.