February 17, 2010
Brian Cottam, Associate Director
Southern Utah University Office of Regional Services
Paul Husselbee, GR&RS Media Relations
CEDAR CITY — Plans for Southern Utah University’s new Natural History Museum, one of the centerpieces of the $13.9 million Gibson Science Center, are taking shape, thanks to the vision of the museum’s planning committee and the input of three State of Utah “museum specialists.”
SUU faculty, staff and administrators who comprise the planning committee are now working on an interpretive plan to address the museum’s mission, visitor‐experience goals, themes and stories, and partnership opportunities, said Bonnie Bain, SUU lecturer of biology and planning committee team leader.
“When we finish the interpretive plan, we’ll have a definitive statement of how we’ll make it all — theme, mission, goals and outcomes — fit together,” Bain said. “It will guide our exhibit planning, design and fund‐raising efforts.”
The overall theme, Bain said, will be the diversity of life, both past and present, in Southwest Utah.
“We want to emphasize the biology, geology, anthropology and archaeology of the region,” she said. “We live in a region that encompasses a vast and diverse cultural and scientific history, and we’re at a significant hub of that region, leaving us uniquely positioned to showcase that history.”
Robert L. Eves, dean of the SUU College of Science, said he hopes the museum will “aid our educational outreach mission by bringing K‐12 students to campus and showcasing our unique natural and cultural resources, which are substantial.”
The museum is set to open with the dedication of the Gibson Science Center, which is scheduled to coincide with SUU Commencement in May 2011.
Groundbreaking for the facility is slated for March 26 as part of the 2010 Founder’s Day celebration.
Eves said a goal of the museum planning team is to share exhibits with federal land‐management agencies in the region, thereby helping SUU’s National Park Service partners in the university’s Alliance for Education to accomplish their educational goals.
“We’re already forging relationships between the museum and Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon National Park,” he said.
Eves added that the cooperative effort “falls very much within the aims of the Alliance for Education,” an educational partnership SUU shares with Bryce Canyon National Park, Zion National Park, Cedar Breaks National Monument and Pipe Spring National Monument.
“We want the museum to present an inviting portal to the southeast corner of our campus,” he said.
At Bain’s request, SUU’s Office of Government Relations & Regional Services sought input from state museum experts who worked with the museum committee at a planning workshop on campus in late January. That meeting provided the impetus for the interpretive plan.
Utah State Parks staffers Karen Krieger, heritage resources coordinator, and Wendy Wilson, parks naturalist, joined Laurel Casjens, museum specialist for the Utah Division of Arts & Museums, to advise the SUU museum planning committee on how to prepare to open a new museum.
The trio works for the State of Utah as “museum specialists,” said Brian Cottam, associate director of Government Relations & Regional Services, which has offered to support the museum planning committee’s activities through funding from the SUU Outdoor Initiative.
In response to Bain’s request for expertise and resources, Cottam brought the planning committee and the state museum specialists together for the January museum summit.
The resulting workshop focused the committee’s attention on identifying the museum’s overall mission and accompanying theme, Bain said.
“It helped us focus on what the state and private funding agencies will expect of us,” she said.
Bain said the specialists’ advice has been invaluable.
“We’re all scientists; we’ve been focused on the content — what the exhibits would contain and how they should appear to the public,” she said. “Working with the state’s advisers helped us see the bigger picture, like the museum’s role in reaching the public.”
The majority of the interdisciplinary planning committee is made up of faculty, staff and administrators from SUU’s Colleges of Science, Humanities & Social Science, and Education.
The Outdoor Initiative has provided funding that will allow committee members to visit other museums and attend training seminars, as well as purchase development tools to aid in museum and exhibit planning, Cottam said.
Wes Curtis, SUU Vice President for Government Relations & Regional Services, said he is “pleased to support the development of the SUU Natural History Museum. The planning process that is currently under way is a good example of the great things that can happen when government and higher education work together to serve the community.”
Eves expressed gratitude to Curtis, Cottam and the Government Relations & Regional Services staff.
“We appreciate their continued service and support of the museum project,” he said.