Thursday, September 10, 2009

NHM update: "Future Uncertain"

Posted By on Thu, Sep 10, 2009 at 3:15 PM


This just in from NHM board member Karen Reiss:

HSU and Natural History Museum Board discuss plan to keep museum open until July 2010; future still uncertain

The HSU Natural History Museum Advisory Board met with HSU Provost Robert Snyder and College of Natural Resources and Sciences Associate Dean Steven Smith last night to discuss the future of the Natural History Museum. The University had announced on August 7th that the Museum would be closed permanently at the end of the month due to California's fiscal crisis and the University's need to cut millions from their annual operating budget. Following the initial announcement, the Board and public rallied to keep the museum open by a dual effort that involved fundraising to replace HSU's state funds contribution, and creating a proposal for a model that would allow the museum to operate without any state funds. The proposal submitted to HSU on August 28th by the museum Board and the Friends of the North Coast's Natural History Museum outlined a transition from the current university-funded and managed entity to an independent non-profit museum, funded and managed through the volunteer efforts of an elected Board of Directors and fewer permanent staff. The transitional phase was proposed to be partially funded by the grassroots fundraising efforts, which in the last few weeks has already netted approximately $74,000 in pledges from an energized base in the community.

In last night's meeting, Provost Snyder noted that HSU would not be able to sell or lease the building until at least July 1, 2010, and committed to leaving the exhibits intact at the present time, rather than beginning to dismantle them, significantly extending the time period during which an alternative model for museum operations can be developed. The University also expressed interest in allowing K-12 educators to use the museum for class trips during the current academic year. This would enable curriculum specific to the Natural History Museum, written last year with funds from the McLean Foundation and the Redwood Science Project, to be utilized by area teachers. HSU also agreed to discuss the possibility of the fledgling Friends of the North Coast's Natural History Museum funding the expenses that would be necessary to keep the museum open to the public until July 2010. Details of such an arrangement remain to be worked out.

With respect to the long-term fate of the Museum, HSU plans to form a workgroup composed of representatives of the HSU administration, faculty, K-12 educators, and Museum Board to develop a proposal for the future of the Museum. In parallel, the Board intends to execute plans outlined in their proposal that move toward an independent nonprofit organization running the Museum. These include incorporating, applying for non-profit status, electing a new Board of Directors, and applying for grants and continuing to fund-raise for capital that will secure the long-term viability of the Museum.

For the present, the museum remains closed, but there now appears to be some hope that the Museum will be able to reopen to K-12 educators and the public shortly. In the long term, the Friends of the North Coast's Natural History Museum are committed to ensuring that a natural history museum that serves the needs of the North Coast community will continue to exist, whatever precise form it may take, and whatever role HSU chooses to play.


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Bob Doran

Bob Doran

Freelance photographer and writer, Arts and Entertainment editor from 1997 to 2013.

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