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Newsletter of the Virginia Museum of Natural History

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Spring 2009

Exhibit opening May 16

An exhibition on the natural resources and history of Lee Memorial Park, this exhibit features 80 original botanical watercolor paintings by Bessie Niemeyer Marshall. The first 40 paintings will be on display beginning May 16, with the second 40-piece collection to be displayed beginning September 15. Although Lee Memorial Park was not established until 1921, geologists and


Bug Daze festival, May 30

An Evening at the Pyramids

The 4th annual Bug Daze festival will be held Saturday, May 30 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. This popular festival features fun and educational displays of unusual insects, crustaceans, arachnids and more, highlighting the roles of various bugs in people’s everyday lives.

Stromatolite on display Exhibit Spotlight

Upcoming Events

Please note that this is the last issue of Virginia, Naturally! Due to budget restraints and our ongoing efforts to reduce paper usage as part of the VMNH Green Initiative, we are transitioning completely to our monthly e-Newsletter. If you do not currently receive the VMNH e-Newsletter, please email us at

paleontologists have unearthed prehistoric sites and fossils dating as far back as 330 million years. The park also serves as a rich botanical meeting ground for rare plant species and is a habitat for a variety of birds and other wildlife. This exhibition, on loan from the Wilcox Watershed Conservancy and Petersburg Garden Club, includes a mix of geologic and cultural history.

Don’t miss the Reptile Day festival on July 25, followed by the Virginia Cultural Festival on September 19 and the Outdoor Fun Festival & Chili Cookoff on October 17. To learn more about these and other VMNH events, visit


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Young Friends Event The Young Friends of VMNH hosted “Mardi Gras at the Museum” on February 24, drawing over 70 visitors. Young Friends is a members group for 20, 30, and 40 year-olds that aims to raise awareness of the Museum and provides support for VMNH’s educational, social, and fundraising activities.

The Young Friends will be sponsoring “Canoe and Que,” June 27 on the Smith River. Visit for details about this and other upcoming events.

“An Evening at the Pyramids” The Virginia Museum of Natural History Foundation’s 3rd annual gala, “An Evening at the Pyramids,” is Saturday, May 2 at 7 p.m. in The Harvest Foundation of the Piedmont Great Hall. To learn more about this event, visit For information about purchasing tickets or for sponsorship information, contact Charlotte Harter at 276-634-4162 or

Gette Accepts Texas Position Timothy J. Gette resigned as executive director of VMNH in February 2009 to accept the position of executive director of the Institute of Texan Cultures in San Antonio. Gette was appointed executive director of VMNH in 2004, after serving as chief operating officer of the Dallas Museum of Natural History and director of operations of the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza in Dallas. Established as the Texas State Exhibits Building for HemisFair in 1968 and later designated a campus of The University of Texas at San Antonio, UTSA’s Institute of Texan Cultures tells the stories of Texas’ diverse citizens and invites guests to join in the celebration of Texas’ multicultural heritage.

Dr. Richard Hoffman Retires Dr. Richard Hoffman recently retired as curator of recent invertebrates at VMNH. Hoffman was appointed director of research and collections in December 2007, after serving as curator of recent invertebrates at VMNH for 19 years. He turned this position over to Dr. James Beard on January 14, but continued in his role as curator until his retirement on April 1. Prior to working at VMNH, he was a professor of biology at Radford University for 29 years. Hoffman pursued undergraduate studies at the University of Virginia, earned a master’s degree in entomology from Cornell University, and a doctorate in zoology from Virginia Tech.

Thomas Jefferson Awards The 22nd Annual VMNH Foundation Thomas Jefferson Awards are Wednesday, April 22 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at the Museum. The Thomas Jefferson Awards honor Virginia businesses, groups and individuals for their contributions to and support for natural science. To learn more about this event, visit For information about purchasing tickets or for sponsorship information, contact Charlotte Harter at 276-634-4162 or

2009 Field Trips Beginning this spring, VMNH curators will lead scientific expeditions to sites throughout Virginia, allowing participants to become “scientists for the day.” To learn more, visit or e-mail

Family Festival

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The popular Dino Day festival was held on January 10 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The festival included a play performed by the Carlisle School Players, Jurassic Jeopardy, special dino films, costumed dino characters, and dinos-on-parade.

Stromatolite Now on Display in Great Hall

The stromatolite exhibit is unveiled during the Dino Day festival. Pictured are (l-r) Charles Craddock of Boxley; Dr. Alton Dooley, assistant curator of paleontology at VMNH; John Moser, exhibit designer; and Timothy J. Gette, former executive director of VMNH.

    An exhibit featuring a 500 million-year-old stromatolite specimen is now on display in The Harvest Foundation of the Piedmont Great Hall. The exhibit was unveiled during the Museum’s Dino Day festival on January 10.     The stromatolite, which measures 6 feet in diameter and weighs over 2 tons, garnered national attention after its discovery in May 2008 at the Boxley Blue Ridge Quarry near Roanoke, Virginia. While moving a pile of loose rock, quarry employees noticed the mysterious object, but were unable to identify it.  When the quarry’s geologist identified it as a stromatolite, Museum scientists were asked to confirm the analysis.      Stromatolites are among the earliest known life forms and are important in helping scientists understand more about environments that existed in the past.      Museum curators and representatives from Boxley Blue Ridge Quarry were on hand to discuss the specimen and answer questions for visitors. Boxley donated the stromatolite to the Museum. To learn more about this and other exhibits at VMNH, visit


VMNH • Virginia, Naturally

Exhibit Spotlight Darwin: Evidence & Evolution, Darwin’s Enchanted Islands Now open through April 23 Darwin: Evidence & Evolution celebrates the scientific achievements of Charles Darwin. Darwin’s 200th birthday was February 12, 2009, while 2009 also marks the 150th anniversary of the publication of his famous work, “On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life.”   Darwin’s Enchanted Islands features the Galapagos Islands in all their majesty, through vivid photographs by Ronald Gard, renowned photographer and conservationist. Photos and specimens from Dr. Cleve Hickman Jr., professor emeritus of biology at Washington and Lee University are also displayed. Extraordinary animals, landscapes, and stories come to life in this enchanting exhibit.

Wonders of the Deep: Marine Mollusks Now open through June 27 Don’t miss this award-winning exhibit. Marine mollusks provide scientists with records of climate changes and evolution over the last 500 million years. This exhibition, displayed in The Harvest Foundation Great Hall, includes specimens from the Atlantic and Gulf Coastal Plains, from Massachusetts to Mississippi.

Rediscovering the Forgotten Garden May 16, 2009 to January 10, 2010 An exhibition on the natural resources and history of Lee Memorial Park, this exhibit features 80 original botanical watercolor paintings by Bessie Niemeyer Marshall. Although Lee Memorial Park was not established until 1921, geologists and paleontologists have unearthed prehistoric sites and fossils dating as far back as 330 million years. The park also serves as a rich botanical meeting ground for rare plant species and is a habitat for a variety of birds and other wildlife. This exhibition, on loan from the Wilcox Watershed Conservancy and Petersburg Garden Club, includes a mix of geologic and cultural history.

Clues to the Past: Archaeology in Virginia July 18, 2009 to July 31, 2010 To be displayed in The Harvest Foundation of the Piedmont Great Hall, Clues to the Past provides insight in the field of archaeology including the scientific processes, excavation methods, and methods for forming the resulting conclusions. It shows how scientists use clues from the past to gain knowledge about how people lived and provides four case studies relevant to the Commonwealth.

At-the-Museum At-the-Museum

Programs Programs

At-the-Museumprograms programs are are held held in At-the-Museum in the Suzanne M. Lacy Education Center. the Suzanne M. Lacy Education Center. Pre-registrationisisrequired required by by calling calling Pre-registration 276-634-4185. Send questions and inquiries 276-634-4185. Send questions and inquiries to to These hour-long programs are packed with VMNH offers children agescrafts. 3 to 5 the fun activities, games and opportunity experience history Participantstomust be 3 to 5natural years old and first-hand with by ouranDoodle Bugs! program. accompanied adult. Doodle Bugs! These hour-long programs include Programs are held at 10 a.m. and repeated at 3 p.m. $4/child imaginative stories, fun activities, games,

and crafts. Programs are held at 10 a.m. April 29 and repeated at 3 p.m. Children must be accompanied by an adult. Program fee is Scent-sational Senses $4Your pernose participant. knows best! Test your different senses in this fun program. October 29 May 20 Indians Virginia

October Virginia Archaeology Month. SlimyisScience Get messy concocting some simple, Observe several artifacts as you learnslimy how science creationsIndians such asused goop!the plants the early Virginia and animals around them. June 24 November Trees 19 Have you hugged a treeAge today? Learn about Exploring the Ice all the amazing things trees can offer and Sink your teeth into this program about make a leaf rubbing to take home. Saber Tooth tigers and other Ice Age animals that once roamed the earth by exploring our latest exhibit. December 17

Holiday Crafts

Make and take home crafts made from natural and reusable materials.

Marquis Reynolds displays part of his suspension bridge, made during the Lego Challenges MHC After 3 Program at the Martinsville YMCA.

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Special Saturdays programs make learning fun for all ages. Each program explores a different natural history topic through funfilled discovery activities. Special Saturdays programs are held from 10 a.m. to noon unless otherwise noted. $5/person April 25

Pollution Solutions

Ages 6 – 8 April is Earth Awareness Month. Explore easy steps to help take care of the environment. Make an earth-friendly craft to take home.

Birthdays Made Special Need a fun place for a birthday party? Come to the Museum! We offer themed birthday parties for children which include a special program and craft. Bring your own cake and we will provide the paper products. Themes include: Butterfly Magic, Dinosaur Discovery, Virginia Indians, Bats, Ocean Adventures, and Explorers. Call 276-634-4185 for date availability and pricing.

May 16

Bug Out

Ages 6 – 8 Go buggy as we learn about creepy crawlies and how insects are important to us. Bug out with a great bug craft. June 20

Power of Nature

Ages 9 – 12 What is a hurricane? What causes an earthquake? Answer these questions and many more as we explore nature’s power. More Doodle Bugs! and Special Saturdays programs are coming for the summer! Call or visit our Web site for dates and themes.

Museum Sleepovers Imagine groups of children with flashlights on a scavenger hunt, digging for fossils, and making cool crafts after Museum hours, then rolling out their sleeping bags under an Allosaurus skeleton for a good night’s sleep. VMNH sleepovers provide Boy and Girl Scouts with activities to earn badges; public groups are welcomed to experience many awesome programs and activities. Call 276634-4185 for date availability and pricing.

MHC After 3 VMNH site participants had a fun-filled fall semester as they explored a wide range of classes such as cooking, weather, photography, video production, and video game design. The Museum continues to provide academic programming to seven after-school sites in the MHC After 3 Program. This spring, students are participating in Lego Challenges, Wild Animals, Music Math, Nature Journaling, Green Thumb, and GPS Challenge.

Brent Turner gains hands-on experience during an MHC After 3 video production class.

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MHC C&NN Upcoming Events The Martinsville–Henry County Children and Nature Network has several fun and exciting upcoming programs and events.

Earth Week: MHC C&NN is celebrating

Earth Day April 18 – 26 with environmental education activities and events located in the Martinsville and Henry County area. Attend at least 7 activities to enter the grand prize drawing for an educational canoe trip on the Smith River.

Ecological Inventory of J. Frank Wilson Park: This inventory is a

working nature and outdoor education tool that involves children and adults in the community. Participants will be able to post identified species on the Frank Wilson Park blog. The inventory has begun with an inventory of all the trees in the park. This is a great way for student groups, scout troops, Master Naturalists, Master Gardeners, and others to earn volunteer service hours. Training sessions will be held this spring beginning April 20 at 5:30 p.m.

Martinsville, Henry County, and Carlisle Teachers: All teachers are invited

to take part in an Earth Force training session. Earth Force training is designed for educators and community leaders to encourage citizens to work together to make a positive change in their community’s environment. Training is Wednesday, June 10.

Camps: MHC C&NN is developing new na-

ture and outdoor camps. Camp topics include CSI, environmental care, and being green.

Scouts: Have your next outdoor scouting

event with MHC C&NN. Scouts can earn badges and pins in nature study and other outdoor activities. For more information about MHC C&NN and its programs, visit, call 276-634-4185 or e-mail


VMNH • Virginia, Naturally

Youth Volunteers

The Youth Volunteer Program continues to provide teens with fun and invaluable experiences while assisting education staff with educational programming. Youth volunteers have been involved in family festivals, Family Fun Fridays, summer camps, MHC After 3 programs, and Special Saturdays. Volunteers recently helped with crafts, story time, and Jurassic Jeopardy at the Dino Day festival. Visit for more information.

Summer Fun Summertime is fun time at the Museum! From June to August, Fridays will be filled with familyoriented fun activities from 2 to 4 p.m. with special events and activities featuring natural and cultural organizations from the community. Watch and participate in demonstrations, hands-on activities, and explorations. Visit for a listing of topics. Programs are included with Museum admission.

VMNH interpreter Evelyn Trent shows visitors poison ivy and summer plants.

VMNH Earth Day School groups are invited to the first Earth Day Festival at VMNH on April 22. Participating students will take part in a variety of SOL-based education programs throughout the day. SOL strand topics will include specially designed activities from Life Processes, Living Systems, Earth Patterns, Cycles and Change, and Resources. Indoor and outdoor programs will focus on conservation, environmental education, and natural resources. Both morning and afternoon sessions will be held. For more information or to register, call 276-634-4185.

Youth Volunteer Devante Martin helps with the Build-a-Dinosaur activity on the Smartboard at the Dino Day festival.

Educator Robin Jensen leads participants in a geocaching activity at Frank Wilson Park.

Geocaching Weekend Take part in one of VMNH’s Geocaching Events on April 25 –26. VMNH, Martinsville Leisure Services, and the Dan River Basin Association are partnering together for programs at Frank Wilson Park, Beaver Creek Reservoir, and the Gravely Nature Preserve. Participants will practice their skills, so come dressed for the weather and hiking. Open to anyone ages 8 through adult. Bring your own GPS unit or use one of ours. No experience is necessary. For more information or to pre-register, call 276-634-4185 or e-mail

VMNH • Virginia, Naturally

Lunch at the


The Virginia Museum of Natural History at 21 Starling Avenue, Martinsville, VA is the state museum of natural history for Virginia, seeking to preserve, study and interpret the wealth of Virginia’s natural heritage. The Museum promotes research, education, exhibits, publications and programs in natural history.

VMNH ADMISSION $9/Adults, $7/College Students and Senior Citizens, and $5/Children and Youth 3 to 18. Children under 3 and VMNH members are always free with membership card! Group rates are available.

VMNH HOURS Tuesday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. The Museum is currently closed on Sundays, Mondays, and all state holidays. Please call ahead for current hours of operation.

The PALEO Café now serves lunch, with deli sandwiches, gourmet soups, and organic salad mixes. Also, don’t miss the delectable desserts and Seattle’s Best Coffee© items.

Visit for PALEO Café hours and listings of delicious soups of the day.

Perriello Ceremony

The Museum is within easy driving distance of the Blue Ridge Parkway and Roanoke, Lynchburg, Danville and Greensboro, NC. For more information about membership, Museum exhibits, group tours, or special events, please visit our Web site at www. or call 276-634-4141.

Newsletter Production Editor Ryan L. Barber

Art Director Melody Cartwright Managing Editor Jessica Davenport Copy Editor Zachary S. Ryder

Executive Staff Interim Executive Director and Director of Administration and Services Gloria W. Niblett Director of Research and Collections Dr. James Beard Director of Education and Public Programs Dr. Dennis A. Casey Director of Marketing and External Affairs Ryan L. Barber Director of Development Debra J. Lewis

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Congressman Tom Perriello was sworn in during a reenactment of his official ceremony. Constituents were able to talk with him afterwards in the Museum’s Great Hall. Upper right hand photo: with Martinsville Vice Mayor Kimble Reynolds and Mayor Kathy Lawson.

The Virginia Museum of Natural History is accredited by the American Association of Museums and is a member of the Association of Science-Technology Centers, Southeastern Museums Conference, Natural Science Collections Alliance, Virginia Association of Museums, and Museum Store Association. VMNH is an agency of the Secretary of Natural Resources for the Commonwealth of Virginia. The VMNH Foundation is a 501 (c) 3 nonprofit organization.


21 Starling Avenue Martinsville, VA 24112 ADDRESS SERVICE REQUESTED

Corporate Members Domino’s Pizza, Food 4 Fun, Inc., Pigs-R-Us, Inc., Pizza Hut, Quality Inn/Dutch Inn, Susan Critz Catering, Tacoma, Inc., Carter Bank & Trust, Gardner, Barrow, Sharpe & Reynolds, P.C., Hooker Furniture Corporation, Lester Group, Pepper Moon Catering, King’s Grant Retirement Center., Kings Mountain Animal Clinic, Martinsville First Savings Bank, Norris Funeral Services, Inc., Office of Raymond F. Mallinak, DDS, Quality Catering and The Gallery, S & K Office Products, Inc., Sells, Hogg & Jones, CPAs P.C., T. R. Properties, Inc.

Let the PALEO Café cater your next event. 8

Upcoming Events

VMNH • Virginia, Naturally

Staff Updates

Learn more at

Timothy J. Gette recently resigned as executive director of VMNH to become executive director of the Institute of Texan Cultures in San Antonio.   Gloria Niblett is now serving as interim executive director. Niblett is also director of administration and services. Dr. James Beard is now director of research and collections in addition to his role as curator of earth sciences. Dr. Richard Hoffman, curator of recent invertebrates, retired after 20 years of service. Debbie Norton joined the staff as an education assistant on February 4.

Recent Volunteers of the Month January, Gene Baird; February, Aileen Bourne; and, March, Latrell Wells.

As part of VMNH’s Green Initiative, the newsletter is printed on recycled paper. In addition, it is printed with vegetable-based ink.

green initiative

April 22

Earth Day Celebration, 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

VMNH Foundation Thomas Jefferson Awards, 6 to 7:30 p.m.

April 23

Darwin: Evidence & Evolution, Darwin’s Enchanted Islands exhibits close.

May 2

VMNH Foundation Gala.

May 16

Rediscovering the Forgotten Garden exhibit opens.

May 27 – 29

Southeastern Association of Vertebrate Paleontology Annual Meeting.

May 30

Bug Daze family festival, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

June 27

Wonders of the Deep: Marine Mollusks exhibit closes. “Canoe & Que” sponsored by Young Friends

July 18

Clues to the Past: Archaeology in Virginia exhibit opens.

July 25

Reptile Day family festival, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

August 28 Founder’s Day Celebration. September 19 Virginia Cultural Festival, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. October 3

VMNH Foundation Golf Tournament.

October 17

Outdoor Fun Festival & Chili Cookoff, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

"Virginia, Naturally" - Spring 2009