Closed Thanksgiving Day
23-Nov-2017Event: Thanksgiving Day -- Zoo and Museum CLOSED Date and Time: November 23, 2017.. Read More...
Christmas Lights Festival
Up Close with Nature23-Aug-1998 COLUMBUS (GA) LEDGER-ENQUIRER
There are few places on earth where a human can stand inches away from a 14-foot, upright polar bear or come nose to nose with a snarling pack of arctic wolves and live to tell about it. But come mid-April, such a place will open its doors in Opelika, Ala. George P. Mann and his son George E., owners of Opelika Metalfab, Inc., have already begun construction on Mann Museum and Outdoors - a 35,000-square-foot wildlife showcase aimed at educating people about animals from around the world and modern conservation. The mammoth-sized, $2 million facility will cover 10 acres just off I-85 at Exit 58. It will feature 74 separate exhibits with life-sized taxidermy mounts of hundreds of native and exotic animals in recreated scenes of their natural habitats. Visitors will be able to view the animals through glass cases from three different angles. Most of the animals to be displayed have been harvested by the Manns with bows and arrows during the last 18 years. But hunting won’t be the major focus of the new museum. “We’re not looking to build a glorified trophy room,” said George E. Mann. “Our theme is going to be ‘Conservation through Education.’ We want to build values - to pass on what we’ve picked up from the outdoors through the years.” The museum will have something for everyone. Besides the mounted displays, there will be a video room with approximately 20,000 feet of authentic wildlife film, dating back to 1930. The projector and screen will be available for classes, seminars and conferences. There will be a “Nature Walk” with wild bird feeders, birdhouses and blinds for observation and photography. A live female deer will be available for hand feeding. And there will be a touch-and-feel display for the kids. “Young and old will benefit from this,” George E. Mann said. “It’ll be a place where you can spend an hour or a half a day. But we hope people will take what they learn home with themwhen they leave." Through the years, the Mann family has racked up its share of hunting accomplishments, including the Boone & Crockett bow and arrow state record whitetail and the second largest polar bear ever harvested. And while hunting won't be the major focus of the museum, won’t be totally excluded. Boone & Crockett, Pope & Young, the Alabama Wildlife Federation, the U.S. Dept. of Interior and the National Wild Turkey Federation will all be well-represented. The hunting element also will be present in a retail store adjacent to the museum, which will sell camouflage, treestands and other hunting supplies. “We believe hunting is an important part of conservation,” George E. Mann said. “But more than anything, we want people to understand how nature works. We’re not looking to hide anything. There will be some brutal footage. But it’s the same things that have been happening in the wild for thousands of years.”