a museum without walls

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The Virginia Museum of Natural History features award winning exhibits, ground-breaking scientific research and collections, and innovative educational programs for all ages.


  • A Museum Without Walls

  • As the Virginia Museum of Natural History Foundation Board worked with the Board of Trustees and museum staff to develop this vision plan, it quickly became apparent that the key to the museums perpetual success will be through continued cooperation and partnerships with individuals, corporations and organizations across the Commonwealth and beyond. As the museum expands its programs and exhibits, the VMNH Foundation Board will work with museum staff to develop relationships that will result in new opportunities for collaboration and growth. From traveling exhibits and outreach education programs, to groundbreaking scientific research and important collections, the museums programs can only be accomplished through public and private partnerships that provide mutual benefits to both the museum and its partners. With continued support from partners statewide the museum and its many programs will succeed and grow in the coming years.

    Dr. Denise UnterbrinkPresident, VMNH Foundation Board

    In 1985, as Dr. Noel Boaz and his team of dedicated volunteers prepared to open the doors of the Virginia Museum of Natural History, it was big thinking that inspired belief that such an ambitious endeavor would succeed. When a state-of-the-art $25 million VMNH facility opened to record crowds 22 years later, the institution made a monumental leap forward in its short but illustrious

    history. Now, the museum is poised to take another bold step in its mission to serve the citizens of the

    Commonwealth and beyond. For the past year, the Board of Trustees has worked in concert with the staff to develop goals to move the museum forward. The museums vision for the next two years is

    ambitious in its aspirations and efficient in maximizing resources. As Virginias only

    collections-based science museum, VMNH has achieved national recognition for its award-winning exhibits, exceptional scientific research, and standards-based educational programs. With innovative outreach initiatives, rich online resources, and high quality traveling exhibits, VMNH is now poised to become A Museum Without Walls.

    Sammy ReddChairman, VMNH Board of Trustees

    Messages from VMNH Leadership

    VMNH Mission: To interpret Virginias natural heritage within a global context in ways that are relevant to all citizens of the Commonwealth.

    Page 1 n Virginia Museum of Natural History

    n VMNH is accredited by the American Association of Museums, a distinction earned by fewer than 5% of museums across the U.S.

    n Over 30,000 individuals visit the museum annually, with another 150,000 reached through outreach programs, online resources, and off-site displays and exhibits.

    n The museum partners with more than 70 universities, organizations, schools, agencies, and museums across Virginia, the United States, and the world.

    n VMNH has a significant local economic impact, employing 62 people, purchasing over $450,000 in goods and services annually, and attracting more than 15,000 non-local visitors yearly.


  • Goals:

    1.1 To develop the collections based on the areas of greatest need.

    We will survey existing collections of natural objects in Virginia to determine what gaps exist in the catalog of the Commonwealths natural resources. The museum will expand its collections based on areas of greatest need, preserving a more complete array of specimens and artifacts for generations to come.

    1.2 To increase the quantity of materials prepared for research.

    The museum will hire a qualified technical

    research assistant to provide support for our curators. This person will conduct important preparatory collections work

    across disciplines, allowing curators to invest more time in data

    acquisition and interpretation. Proper training will be provided in specimen preparation and analysis, such as scanning electron microscopy techniques.

    1.3 To expand the museums publication program.

    The museum will contribute to the scientific literature by producing memoirs, guidebooks, special publications, and the museums journal Jeffersoniana.

    With an inventory of more than 20 million specimens and artifacts, the Virginia Museum of Natural History is the only collections-based science museum in Virginia. Our curatorial staff and research associates use these natural objects to develop new information for their disciplines. Geology, paleontology, biology, and archaeology are our fields, and our collections are treasures of the Commonwealth that we hold in perpetuity.

    AccomplishingInnovative Science

    Equipped with his five senses, man explores the universe around him and calls the adventure Science. Edwin Powell Hubble

    Page 2 n Virginia Museum of Natural History


  • The museums statewide, collections-based education and outreach programs engage thousands of teachers and students each year. Our programs encourage learners of all ages to see the natural world through the lens of specimens and artifacts discovered in Virginia. We bring students to the museum, engage them in their classrooms, and reach them with technology to inspire them with Virginias science specimens and artifacts.

    Inspiring Learners of All Ages

    n When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe

    John Muir


    2.1 To increase professional development opportunities for teachers.

    Quality science education is critically important to the nations ability to succeed in the global economy. Preparing teachers to provide effective instruction will produce students who are competitive in the fields of science, technology, engineering, math, and health. Museum staff will offer teacher professional development programs statewide and provide science educators intellectual tools and effective instructional materials.

    2.2 To increase the number of education programs offered statewide.

    Our education programs serve Virginians far beyond the walls of

    the museum. With educators located in Southern, Central, and Eastern Virginia, we are well positioned to increase delivery of quality programs to

    classrooms statewide.

    2.3 To increase collaboration with teacher education departments in

    Virginia colleges and universities.

    Collaborating with colleges and universities will promote partnerships that leverage resources and engage new audiences.

    Page 3 n Virginia Museum of Natural History

  • Viewing and interacting with natural objects engages museum visitors and brings science to life. A visit to the museums galleries or one of our off-site exhibits evokes wonder and inspiration. Outreach, online resources, and satellite exhibits make the Virginia Museum of Natural History a museum without walls.

    Interpreting VirginiasNatural Heritage

    Men love to wonder, and that is the seed of science. Ralph Waldo Emerson


    3.1 To establish a traveling exhibits program.

    Traveling exhibits expose visitors to other museums to the work of the Virginia Museum of Natural History. Sharing the museums specimens, artifacts, and educational materials with other institutions will increase revenue and reach a larger, more diverse audience.

    3.2 To enhance the museums online presence.

    The Virginia Museum of Natural History is best experienced in person, but a trip to our

    galleries is not always possible. Developing a high quality interactive web site, robust social networking, and rich online

    multimedia will provide worldwide virtual access to the museums

    exhibits and collections.

    3.3 To increase the number of off-site exhibits.

    Off-site displays at visitor centers, state parks, and other

    locations across the Commonwealth engage large

    audiences far beyond the museums walls. We will develop relationships statewide to increase the number of satellite exhibits.

    Page 4 n Virginia Museum of Natural History


  • The Virginia Museum of Natural History is a premier scientific institution, mounting award-winning exhibits, engaging in cutting-edge research, caring for extensive collections, and delivering innovative educational programs. Continuation of this kind of excellence requires sound management with a focus on accountability, performance, and growth.

    Managing and Augmenting Resources

    Adapt or perish, now as ever, is natures inexorable imperative. H. G. Wells


    4.1 To attract and retain the finest staff by making the museum a desirable place to work.

    The museums success depends on a quality, engaged, and motivated staff. The museum will be a well-managed workplace that is collaborative in spirit and provides opportunities for employees to develop professionally and personally.

    4.2 To increase visibility and public understanding of our mission.

    The museums legacy is in its collections, research contributions, and a public educated

    in the sciences. Many Virginians are unaware of the breadth and depth of these contributions. Marketing, promotion, and

    partnerships will encourage museum visitation, outreach, and support.

    4.3 To deploy and maintain technology to support thework of staff and facilitate public engagement.

    A robust technology infrastructure is key to the

    museums mission. We will increase the publics ability to engage in our on-and

    off-site exhibits and activities. Adopting new technology while maintaining existing infrastructure is fundamental to the museums ability to fulfill its mission.

    Page 5 n Virginia Museum of Natural History


  • As the Board of Trustees, Foundation Board, and staff worked together to develop the contents of this documen