National Aquarium Reopens Upland Tropical Rain Forest

A ribbon-cutting event, attended by local and state government leaders, celebrated the milestone officially reopening the exhibit

The National Aquarium celebrated the reopening of the Upland Tropical Rain Forest on November 15 with a ribbon-cutting event attended by Maryland Senate President Bill Ferguson and Assistant Commerce Secretary Heather Gramm. Other state and local officials, as well as philanthropic partners, were also present for the event. The exhibit closed in the spring to replace all 684 panes of glass of the iconic, pyramid-topped building in order to provide the best home possible for the Aquarium's resident animals and plants. The necessary glass-replacement project was made possible in part by donations from the State.

The glass panes had not been replaced since the National Aquarium opened 41 years ago and were due for an upgrade. The new-and-improved glass will help control temperatures inside the exhibit from getting too warm, creating a pleasant experience for both animals and guests. Additionally, the new glass has permanent acid-etching to protect migrating birds from striking the glass and to provide a diffuse light for the plants below and creates an ambient nighttime glow from the outside.

New to the already-iconic pyramid is the addition of LED lights along its borders, which will shine blue for the National Aquarium, as well as having the ability to light up purple for the Baltimore Ravens and orange for the Baltimore Orioles.

In addition, workers replaced wood decking, put up new wire mesh for the exhibit's birds, built a new elevated walkway for staff around the perimeter of the exhibit, and fixed aging ductwork, concrete and plumbing. All the materials used were first approved by the Aquarium's Animal Health team to ensure they were safe for every species in the exhibit.

"Though many of the changes made over these last few months may not be noticeable to the eye, they have greatly improved the environment for the animals and plants, as well as made it safer for our staff," said National Aquarium CEO John Racanelli.

In accordance with its conservation mission, the National Aquarium has partnered with North Carolina-based Strategic Materials to upcycle the old glass. The glazing units will be transported to Strategics' entirely outdoor facility, where they will be processed into cullet for use in fiberglass insulation for buildings and highway beads for reflective road striping.

During the glass replacement process, the animals from the Upland Tropical Rain Forest were cared for in the back-of-house spaces of the Australia: Wild Extremes exhibit and at the Aquarium's Animal Care and Rescue Center on Fayette Street. Over the past few weeks, animal care teams have slowly returned the animals to their home, starting with the ibis, herons and sloths. For the other animals, the team used a reintroduction tool that allowed them to be in a protected space within the exhibit to reacclimate for a time before being released.

This critical improvement ensures the future of the glass pyramid for the next half-century and would not have been possible without the generous support of the State of Maryland, our local governments, the corporate community, and our philanthropic partners.

"I'd like to personally thank Governor Larry Hogan, Senate President Bill Ferguson, and Speaker of the House Adrienne Jones for the state's significant support," said Racanelli.

"For over 40 years, the National Aquarium has been not only an amazing tourist destination and educational resource, but also a major economic anchor for Baltimore City," said Governor Hogan. "Our administration was proud to help support the replacement of the National Aquarium's iconic glass pyramid to ensure that generations of Marylanders and visitors will be able to experience the aquarium's immersive Rain Forest exhibit. Congratulations to everyone involved in this project."

"The National Aquarium is integral to the 46th Legislative District, Baltimore City, and the entire State of Maryland," said Senate President Bill Ferguson. "I'm immensely proud of the State funding we've secured in recent years to ensure the sustainability of this vital institution for decades to come. The Aquarium's commitment to supporting Maryland students and protecting our environment is a model for the role anchor institutions can play in our State."

The $8 million project included a $7 million investment from the state of Maryland, as well as grants from the city of Baltimore, Baltimore County, Baltimore City corporate support and the Abell Foundation.

The National Aquarium is excited to welcome guests back to this incredible exhibit and to experience the beloved animals in it.

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