September 28, 2007

Museum Makes Science Fun for Everyone

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Do you find schoolwork so stressful that you find yourself wanting to get away during the weekend? Aside from the farmer’s market or the Pyramid Mall, some student visit the Museum of the Earth.
Located on Trumansburg Road in Ithaca, the Museum of the Earth is part of The Paleontological Research Institution, which was founded in 1932 by Gilbert Dennison Harris, a professor of geology at Cornell University from 1894 to 1934. The institution was developed to take care of professor Harris’s collections and now it is a natural history museum with a mission including both scientific research and education. Founded in 2003, the Museum of the Earth, as a new member of PRI, now serves as “the most exciting excursion in education” in PRI for everyone in the community.
The Museum has been trying hard to be friendly to the public.
“We want to offer enjoyment for everyone from scholars to non-scholars, from young to old” said Billy Kepner, director of marketing at PRI and its Museum of the Earth. The “Museum of the Earth Tour,” for example, is one of the educational programs for people of all ages. According to Kepner, museum tours lead visitors on “a journey through time,” highlighting key concepts in the Museum and some of the most spectacular specimens in the exhibits.
For those living outside New York State, it is also possible to have access to the educational programs in the Museum. According to Kepner, there is an online program in which science educators will be available on the Internet.
Melanie Welgener ’11, who went to the Museum last summer before coming to Cornell, said she was quite surprised that Ithaca had such a museum since it is such a small town. Welgener was also quite impressed by the efforts the Museum had taken to make the geology knowledge acceptable. For example, there was a place where people could touch the rocks and fossils, which made the seemingly complicated and difficult knowledge easier to absorb especially for little kids.
This year is especially important for the Museum because it is the 75th anniversary of PRI. Therefore, as part of the PRI, the museum is holding special events to celebrate the 75th anniversary. The event called “Collection Connections: 75 for the 75th” from April 14th to Oct. 14th is a special exhibit which will feature 75 fossils from the Museum’s permanent collections that have never been presented to the public. Kepner also added that they were offering a “Monthly Rotating History Exhibit” beginning in February to present a different exhibit highlighting PRI’s fascinating journey through time.
Because they were started by a former Cornell professor, the PRI and the Museum have a strong connection with the University. The connection, according to Kepner, includes the Museum’s permanent exhibition in Snee Hall and collaboration with the department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences among several others Prof. Warron Allmon, Earth and atmospheric sciences serves director of PRI, and helps the Museum maintain strong ties with Cornell.
To some Cornell students, the Museum is a great asset to the Ithaca Community.
When asked whether she would recommend her friends to visit the museum, Welgener said that she would be very willing to. “It’s interesting to see what Ithaca has to offer besides Cornell University,” she said.