Bat Zone bids farewell to Cranbrook

By: Tiffany Esshaki | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published May 24, 2017

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BLOOMFIELD HILLS — The Organization for Bat Conservation, which has been housed in the Cranbrook Institute of Science for 15 years, is about to take flight for a new home.

The Bat Zone will be expanding to a 10,000-square-foot headquarters in the First Federal building in Pontiac next month, with plans to open to the public in July. The organization, which initiated the digital #SaveTheBats campaign, was founded 20 years ago and has educated nearly 250,000 people annually on the important role that bats play in the ecosystem and what elements of the environment are directly impacting their survival, like the dangerous white nose fungus.

“Cranbrook Institute of Science has been a valuable partner and ally over the years, and has been tremendously supportive of our mission to save bats and educate young audiences across the nation,” OBC Executive Director Rob Mies said in a prepared statement. “Now, during OBC’s 20th anniversary year, we’re ready to make the leap to a new space, while also ensuring that our partnership will continue far into the future.”

Before the bats start packing up, the institute is packing in as many tours as it can before its final day on campus May 28.

“It’s been a great partnership,” said Stephen Pagnani, head of communications for the Cranbrook Educational Community. “We’ll be adding extra tours, knowing the bats are very popular; we’re going to squeeze in as many tours as we can. And that partnership certainly isn’t ending. We’ll still be hosting the Friday night bat walks through the gardens, which are extremely popular.”

Pagnani said that over the years, he’s been inspired by how many uneasy visitors have toured the Bat Zone and left with a new appreciation for what they thought of before as just creepy critters.

“Even people who didn’t fall in love with the bats would come out and say, ‘I get it now. I get why they’re important.’ And that’s kind of the point, that they understand,” he said. “I think that’s what a science museum is all about.”

But the former Bat Zone won’t be vacant for long. Pagnani said the museum is looking forward to rotating exciting hands-on experiences through the more than 2,000-square-foot space.

“I’m pretty sure the first installation will be dinosaur-themed, since they’re always such a hit. Maybe with dig boxes, where you can dust off fossils or something. It will be something that’s very sort of new and unique to us,” he explained. “I like to explain it as where the changing exhibition hall, where the King Tut exhibition is right now, will be the hall where you go to see. This new space is where you’ll go to do.”

To purchase tickets for Friday night bat walks — which will be held at 9 p.m. June 16-July 28, 8:30 p.m. Aug. 4-18 and 8 p.m. Aug. 25-Sept. 1 — visit science.cranbrook.edu. Tickets for the walks cost $5 for the general public.

The Bat Zone will host as many tours as possible Sunday, May 28. To see a final tour of the Bat Zone in its current space, visit the institute at 39221 Woodward Ave. in Bloomfield Hills. Bat Zone tours cost $5, in addition to regular museum admission.

For more information on the Organization for Bat Conservation and its new home, visit batconservation.org.

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