The Glenn Starlin Native Plant Courtyard

Get outdoors. No visit to the museum would be complete without a walk through the beautiful Glenn Starlin Native Plant Courtyard. A living research collection of Oregon’s native plants, the courtyard is home to two life-size Columbian mammoth sculptures created in 2018 by renowned paleoartist Gary Staab. 

Columbian mammoth sculpture - adult female

One of the largest mammoth species, Columbian mammoths roamed Oregon until their extinction around 13,000 years ago, a time when most giant ice age mammals disappeared from North America. Debates continue about the possible causes of those extinctions, but most scientists point to a combination of climate change and hunting by humans. Paleontological research at the museum has recently zeroed in on the Columbian mammoth, with ongoing studies of one herd’s footprints uncovered at Fossil Lake in south central Oregon. 

Installed in October 2018, the mammoths are part of an extensive outdoor revamp that includes an enhanced native plant display, new interpretive signange, and much more. We're indebted to Cameron McCarthy Landscape Architecture and Planning and Rainbow Valley Design and Construction for their partnership in bringing the project to life.

The Museum Building
The design of the building was inspired by Northwest Coast longhouses and executed by Ratcliffe Architects of Berkeley, CA. The Museum of Natural and Cultural History has been housed in this facility since 1987.

MNCH exterior 2018

Metal Sculptures
Northwest artist Wayne Chabre created the beautiful hammered copper sculptures that adorn the entrance and porticoes of the museum. The salmon, eagle, raven, bear, and wolf each embody character traits important to traditional Pacific Northwest Native cultures. Another bronze sculpture found in the courtyard is Spring Run, by Oregon artist Mack Holman. Spring Run represents a Native American woman from the Pacific Northwest processing salmon in the early twentieth century.

The Geology
The horseshoe-shaped path around the courtyard is a walkable timeline where visitors can encounter more than four billion years of earth history, including a large granite boulder transported from Montana to the Willamette Valley during the catastrophic Missoula floods at the end of the last Ice Age; a replica of the Tomanowos (or Willamette) meteorite, the largest meteorite found in North America; and a 26-million year old piece of petrified wood.



Glenn Starlin was a professor of theater arts and dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Oregon. A longtime supporter of cultural institutions, including the two museums on the UO campus, Starlin watched over, worked for, and defended programs that promoted informal education and campus-community relations. The Glenn Starlin Courtyard was named and dedicated in 1990 by long-time friend and MNCH advocate Bill Bowerman.