The Delbridge Museum of Natural History is home to a one-in-the-world collection of 150 mounted animals. The majority of the mounts originally belonged to Henry Brockhouse, a Sioux Falls businessman who hunted extensively in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s. He displayed part of his collection in his Sioux Falls hardware store for many years. People in the Sioux Falls area recall with nostalgia memories of seeing tigers and bears alongside nuts and bolts in his store. In 1978, Mr. Brockhouse passed away, and several years later, his hardware store closed. At that point, the collection was put up for sale. In 1981, the C.J. Delbridge family purchased the collection in its entirety and donated it to the City of Sioux Falls with the condition that a proper building would be constructed to house it. It was decided that the Delbridge Museum of Natural History would become part of the Great Plains Zoo to enhance the recreational and educational value of both facilities.
All of the Museum specimens collected by Mr. Brockhouse were legally hunted at the time. Now, many of these species are deeply endangered.
Approximately 150 mounts from six continents are currently on display and are grouped geographically and by habitat. Information and signage throughout the Museum focus on how different animals are adapted to their particular environments and on their current status in the wild.
Today, 38 of the specimens are “vanishing species” and are invaluable as an educational resource.
In addition to the mounted animal collection, the Museum features interactive play areas for children to play, relax and refresh. These areas let kids see themselves in projected movies as they dance with the animals in the “ZooVie Theatre” or play on the interactive play pad that allows them to dip their toes in “virtual rivers” or chase fish away or flip flowers around.
Although Henry Brockhouse collected and displayed the animals originally, C.J. Delbridge bought the collection and donated it to the City of Sioux Falls with the condition that the city build a suitable building for the collection. The stories of both men are discussed on interpretive signage in the museum.
The People’s Republic of China, encouraged by C.J. Delbridge, Senator Larry Pressler and Ernest Carlsen, presented the giant panda mount as a gift to the Zoological Society of Sioux Falls in 1985. This panda is one of just a handful of mounted panda specimens in the United States.
Actually the animals in the museum are “mounted.” The skin is stretched over a hollow form made out of either a heavy papier-mâché or fiberglass. The hollow form is really a detailed sculpture that allows the animals to look very lifelike.
Henry Brockhouse did the majority of his hunting from the mid 1950’s until the mid 1970’s. The North American animals are the oldest; some of them could be 70+ years old.
No. The oils that are found in your hand, the same oils that leave fingerprints, are extremely damaging over time. If people were allowed to touch the animals, many of them would be destroyed in a matter of years.
It is priceless. All of the specimens are valuable, as they could never be replaced if something happened to them.
The Giant Panda, Black Rhino and African Elephant are all very rare. However, the entire collection is valuable, as they could never be replaced if something happened to them.
David Sieh, a local artist, painted the murals. His signature with the date they were painted can be seen on many of the murals in the corners. David’s work also graces our giraffe barn (meerkat mural) and our primate building exhibits.
The museum has many sets of large doors that are located away from the public areas. One set of doors has been affectionately named the “elephant doors” because these large doors allowed the elephant to be brought into the museum.
Black rhino, Hunter’s hartebeest, Besia oryx, Oribi, Soemmerring’s gazelle, Cape hartebeest, and Bongo all were Rowland Ward’s Record of Big Game record holders at the time they were collected.