Time flies when you’re having fun (and working hard)! Last week marked the third and final week of our time with the Students Discover Kenan Fellows at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. The week was jam-packed with lab work, lesson planning, more small mammal trapping, visits behind-the-scenes to the Museum’s collections and Arthropod Zoo, and a special lunch with Dr. Emlyn Koster, the Museum’s director. Here are some highlights from his remarks to the group:
I think museums are increasingly vital resources. The experiences that you’ve all shared would not have been possible just a few years ago. In fact very recently, in some cases, both by the virtue of the techniques and the tools that you’ve been using – whether it’s DNA or animal tracking – or that it even occurs within a museum. There’s very few museums that do what we do.
The museum is an innovator on a world scale. This museum was selected as one of five out of 35,000 museums in the country to be the recipient of the National Medal for Museum and Library Service.[the main museum building], which opened in 2000, asks and answers the question “What do we know within North Carolina?” The new building, which you’ve been in where the labs are, is more about the question, “How do we know what we know?” The Daily Planet, you might say, is posing the question, “What’s happening now?” In terms of actual science and montages of the beauty and all the ways we appreciate the planet. Increasingly, there is a fourth question, which you’ve been participating in, which is: “How do I get involved?” Museums in their many vectors of evolution are increasingly about not just us being the collectors and purveyors of information, but about how we put it in other people’s hands. Both in citizen science projects and in the collective sense of stewardship and conservation.
Museums need to have a very clear sense of why they exist. To what end? It used to be said, in the ’90s, when the Smithsonian, the world’s largest museum complex, held a symposium to mark it’s 150th anniversary. One of the speakers said, “The mission statement of most museums goes something like, ‘We exist to collect research and present,’ or to ‘Collect research and interpret the (blank) – fill in the blank.’ That question does not answer the fundamental question of, ‘So, what?’ We’re not into activities for that purpose anymore.”
So, what is our “So, what?” The new mission statement of the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences is, “To illuminate the interdependency of nature and humanity.” And that’s the distinctive mission statement, ladies and gentlemen, no other museum says it that way.
Check out the highlights from Week 3 in the Storify below and be sure to check out our Flickr group to see some more behind the scenes of Students Discover. For even more information about Students Discover and our education initiatives visit education.yourwildlife.org.