LOS ANGELES – The Museum at La Brea Tar Pits has been part of the Los Angeles landscape since 1977.

The Tar Pits remain an active scientific excavation site and one of the richest Ice Age fossil deposits in the world. But with the surrounding developments and upgrades of LACMA, and the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, the Museum at La Brea Tar Pits is about to evolve, too.

Dr. Lori Bettison-Varga is excited about the evolution of the museum, which is currently working on 'Zed,' a recently discovered Colombian mammoth.

“The top of [Zed’s] skull got shaved off by a bulldozer,” said Bettison-Varga. “That's how they've discovered it.”

Active and relevant scientific research and discovery is what makes the museum unique from its peers.  

“We're learning about the entire ecosystem,” explained Bettison-Varga. “And from it we understand the ecological and climate change that happened in this region from 50,000 years ago, to today.”

But after 40 years, not only does the museum building itself need modernizing, but as a civic space, there's also room for improvement. 

“It's a destination,” said Bettison-Varga. “So, you should be able to come here and spend a day and enjoy many different opportunities to engage with the arts, culture, and science. The way people ‘museum’--the way people engage with collections--has completely changed since 1977, and really our goal is to create a place that people want to come back to over and over again, because there's something new, or maybe they just want to hang out at the Tar Bar and have a 'Tartini.'” 

An international call for conceptual plans for the Tar Pits redevelopment has now been whittled down to three architectural firms and while each plan differs in approach, the underlying goal of greater public engagement is the common thread.

The concepts can be viewed on the museum’s website where the public can take a survey and give feedback on each of the proposed plans.

“We will actually do a lot of intensive work in which the public  and stakeholders in the neighborhood will have an opportunity to see and engage in that process,” said Bettison-Varga. “[The Museum at La Brea Tar Pits] is one-of-a-kind. It is a world gem in the middle of an incredible neighborhood and city.”

The period for public feedback closes September 30.

To view the plans and give feedback, visit: tarpits.org