Museum of the Earth Sciences Welcomes 20,000th visitor
On Thursday, September 12, 2013, during the first “Science Day” outreach program for the 2013-2014 academic year, visitor number 20,000 entered the Museum of the Earth Sciences in Curie Hall. This milestone was made possible through the work of many RU faculty and staff members, students, and community volunteers who have helped move the museum to this point, but none more so than Dr. Steve Lenhart whose herculean efforts over the past 8 years have proven to be quite successful.
The Museum began as an idea to enhance the classroom activities for Radford University students and to help serve the science needs of the larger community. Today, the Radford University Museum of the Earth Sciences serves as an educational resource for earth science-related themes to the university, to the local K-12 communities, and to the public at large by encompassing the earth science-related fields of geology, meteorology, oceanography, planetary astronomy and physical anthropology.
Visitors to the museum are given the chance to grow their appreciation for our planet through many displays ranging from “stones to bones.” “The Radford University Museum of the Earth Sciences is a teaching museum” says Dr. Lenhart. “It recognizes that a critical component of learning about the physical earth is to have the visual and tactile access to actual specimens that only a museum allows. The Museum is not a static, dust-gathering collection of rocks and other geological specimens,” states Dr. Lenhart. “Rather, it is envisioned as a dynamic functioning center of quality exhibits with outreach and in-reach programs at all levels of learning and as a fascinating place in which to spend one’s time.” 20,000 visitors and counting would agree.
Most of the exhibits in the museum are self-guided, while a few displays are enhanced by the student and community docents who help create a context for the experience. “Considering the museum doesn’t have enough volunteer staff to keep the museum open year-round, 40 hours per week along with weekends, we have nonetheless been quite proud of its ever-growing popularity” states Dr. Lenhart. “Hopefully, additional volunteers in the future will allow for more open hours and result in even more visitors. Of course, the new museum facility in the new Center for the Sciences Building will allow for a more appropriately designed educational space providing more space for displays."
The Museum of the Earth Sciences will have a new, more prominent home as one of the anchors of the Main Street Level of the Center for the Sciences when that facility opens in 2015. With greater visibility, the Museum will likely experience a significant increase in the number of visitors as residents of the University Community and the region become more aware of this outstanding resource.