September 27, 2004

Museum Celebrates Community

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The Paleontological Research Institution’s Museum of the Earth opened its doors for free to Ithaca residents for its second annual Community Day on Saturday. The event was a celebration of the museum’s opening and was also the museum’s way of thanking the community for all of its support.

“It’s such a fun day and a fun event,” said Bridget Rigas-Gangi, associate director at the PRI.

As the parking lots overflowed into reserve lots at the neighboring Cayuga Medical Center, visitors were met at the main entrance with volunteers handing out free key chains and stickers, face-painting, and various other arts and crafts projects. Inside, a live band added to the atmosphere as visitors strolled through the museum’s exhibitions.

“[Community Day] brings people in who might not be able to come otherwise,” said Lisa Westcott, director of museum operations.

According to Westcott, one major goal of the museum is to make sure it is accessible to everyone. The free admission offered on Community Day is one major way the museum fulfills that objective. In continuation of this idea, the museum also offers winter free Sunday’s on the fourth Sunday of January, February, and March.

Westcott also explained that another major purpose of Community Day is to attract people from outside the immediate Ithaca area.

“We really try to reach out to the communities that are a little farther away and thus need an occasion to come,” Westcott said.

Volunteers were also the heroes of the day, working in shifts at the various tables and activity labs. According to the museum’s volunteer coordinator, Frank Straub, there were approximately 45 regular museum volunteers and 65 volunteers working through On-Site Volunteer Services (OSVS). OSVS helps large student organizations, such as fraternities and sororities, with an interest in volunteering to connect with local non-profit organizations. According to Straub, the museum would not be able to hold large events like Community Day without the help of OSVS.

Five members of the Cornell student group Women in Science volunteered on Saturday. The group spends every Saturday volunteering at the Museum of the Earth.

Many of these students were surprised at the size of the community turnout. “I think it’s nice for students at Cornell to realize there’s a community beyond campus,” said Jessica Fox ’05, volunteer coordinator for Women in Science.

Larry Klaes, a charter member of the museum, brought his two sons Adam and Alex and their neighbor, Troy. Klaes explained why he attended the event. “I try very hard to do things that are fun and enriching to their lives,” he said.

Klaes also explained how he liked to see the humanities and sciences interconnected and believed the museum has done an excellent job of this through its “top notch” exhibits. “This is one example of what I would like to see in Cornell, Ithaca, and beyond,” Klaes said.

The arts and crafts offered to children during the day included shell art, face painting, paleo-creature’s origami, and fossil impressions. Rigas-Gangi described fossil impressions as her favorite part of Community Day. “I like it because it gives the child something to take with them to remind them of the day,” Rigas-Gangi said.

Archived article by Casey Holmes
Sun Staff Writer