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Science Center gets $1 million gift

The Baltimore Sun

The Maryland Science Center has received a $1 million gift from a major insurance firm to help fund an innovative exhibition about cell biology research that will open next year.

MetLife Foundation, the philanthropic arm of New York-based insurer MetLife - formerly known as the Metropolitan Life Insurance Co. - donated the funds to support the coming show, Cells: The Universe Inside Us, which will go on display at the Science Center in March 2009.

"We're using technology to let visitors experience what happens on the most basic level inside our bodies," Science Center President and CEO Van Reiner said yesterday. "We're partnering with experts from the Johns Hopkins University, the University of Maryland and with cell-imaging companies around the country that are using new technology to understand what goes on at the cellular level."

The 4,000-square-foot permanent exhibit will cost about $2.5 million to create, Reiner said. After the exhibit opens in Baltimore, a smaller version of it will travel to science museums around the country for the next five years.

The Science Center also announced the receipt of a $50,000 grant from the Baltimore-based Greif Family Foundation that will be used to provide free admission for 10,000 Baltimore City high school students.

Initially, the Greif gift will enable students to visit Gunther von Hagens' BODY WORLDS 2: The Anatomical Exhibition of Real Human Bodies, an exhibition of specimens preserved in plastic that opens Saturday at the Science Center.

The gifts to the Science Center come amid a string of significant donations to Baltimore cultural institutions in recent years.

Since 2006, the Baltimore Museum of Art has received more than $16 million in philanthropic grants, including a $1 million gift to provide free admission to the museum.

Other institutions that have received significant contributions include the Walters Art Museum, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, the Baltimore Shakespeare Festival and the Baltimore School for the Arts, which received $1 million in 2006 from Hollywood actress and alumna Jada Pinkett Smith.

The Maryland Science Center, which opened in 1976 and has an annual budget of about $12 million, houses permanent exhibits on fossils, dinosaurs, health science, physics and space science. In addition, it's home to an IMAX theater and a planetarium and puts on about three traveling exhibits a year.

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