Virginia gets new natural history museum

Sometimes what goes on behind the scenes at museums is as interesting as what the public sees.

Workmen have been laboring to complete the exhibits and finishing touches on the Virginia Museum of Natural History (VMNH) in Martinsville scheduled to make its debut in March.

The first specimen was installed on Jan. 23. It's a 14-million-year-old Eobalaenoptera, a whale fossil slightly over 30 feet long. It was discovered by VMNH curators in Caroline County, VA.

The facility is scheduled to host a "100 Hour Celebration" for the opening, with a dedication ceremony on March 30. The museum opens to the public the following day when visitors will get their initial look at the new structure as well as state-of-the-art permanent exhibit galleries, "Uncovering Virginia," "How Nature Works: Rocks," and "How Nature Works: Life."

The special exhibits "Feathered Dinosaurs of China," featuring one of the most important fossils ever discovered, and "Chinasaurs: The Great Dinosaurs of China" will be at the new museum from April 6 through June 17.

From June 30 through Jan. 18, 2008, the exhibit "Beyond Jamestown: Virginia Indians Yesterday and Today" will highlight the history, culture and contributions of Virginia's eight Indian tribes. The "Beyond Jamestown" exhibit at the new VMNH facility is part of the America's 400th Anniversary celebration.
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On Sept. 14-15, VMNH will hold its 23rd Annual Indian Festival, celebrating the heritage of Native Americans living in Virginia today, with drumming, dancing, demonstrations, games, crafts and refreshments.

The VMNH is an agency of the Secretary of Natural Resources for the Commonwealth of Virginia, the museum has over 22 million objects in its collections, and reaches nearly 1 million people annually through on-site and traveling exhibitions, classroom outreach programs, Web site, public events and award- winning publications.

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