History of the Museum: Part Four: Housing the Expanding Museum

The Museum of Natural History collections swelled with these and other additions, and Nutting became the driving force behind efforts to construct a large new museum. The Museum had earlier been moved from the Old Capitol to the newly-completed Science (now Calvin) Hall in 1885. However, by 1895 the burgeoning collections dictated that an even larger building be constructed. Nutting was a tireless advocate of a new facility that would also house the classrooms and laboratories of the Natural Science Department--inclusive of botany, geology, and zoology.

More than any other individual at the University, Nutting was responsible for the construction of the Natural Sciences Building (now Macbride Hall). He enlisted the aid of prominent scientists throughout the country to help persuade the Regents of the need for a fireproof, modern structure, " . . . a beautiful building with a museum in its center." One such scientist was Professor G. R. Wieland of Yale University who examined fossil cycads collected by Thomas Macbride. Wieland subsequently wrote to Iowa Governor Shaw:  

". . . this collection . . . represents material that is not only of priceless value, but is unsurpassed in excellence by that in any museum in the world. It is, therefore, a matter of deep regret to me . . . to find these plants are not kept in a fire proof building, much less in a place where their beauty can be seen to advantage . . . No matter of insurance could ever repay the people of Iowa or science for their loss." (Vidette Reporter, 4/16/1901)

The Daily Iowan (renamed from the earlier Vidette Reporter) gave its direct voice to the condition of the Museum and the need for better housing:  

"Few realize what a wealth of valuable material we possess since the crowded floor space entirely prohibits proper exhibition of many of our finest specimens. Who knows, for instance, that we own a beautiful series of seal from the Alaskan waters and of walrus taken by Peary in Greenland?  How many students aside from those who are admitted to study it, are aware that we have the skeleton of a large whale stored in the darkness of an attic along with thousands of other specimens?  Small wonder that the extent of our collections is not appreciated when they are packed away in odd corners, exposed to constant danger from fire and mold. In time when this part of the University is properly housed, the people may know what our museum is." (Daily Iowan, 11/25/1903)

Approval for a new fire-proof Natural Sciences Building was eventually secured at the January 8, 1904, meeting of the Board of Regents.

During his later years, Charles Nutting also witnessed the progressive deemphasis of museum-based studies in the taxonomy and geographic distribution of animals. By 1926, the research pendulum at the University of Iowa and many other institutions had swung decisively from systematics to experimental studies driven by new interests in genetics and physiology. Prof. Nutting died in 1927, bitter and disillusioned.

In 1934 the Natural Science Building was renamed Macbride Hall.

Part Three: Charles Nutting and the Expeditionary Period Part Five: Homer Dill--An Emphasis on Expedition