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July 1, 2007

Sunday, July 1, 2007

By GINNY WRAY - Bulletin Staff Writer

The Virginia Museum of Natural History will open its permanent exhibit galleries to visitors on July 14.

The exhibit galleries, "Uncovering Virginia," "How Nature Works: Life" and "How Nature Works: Rocks," are undergoing final preparations and are the last pieces to allowing full access to the museum, which opened on March 31.

The building has a temporary certificate of occupancy except for the permanent exhibit galleries, according to Ryan Barber, director of marketing and external affairs at the museum. It also is working to meet the fire code, he said.

As a result, the permanent exhibits have been opened for tours sporadically when they were not being worked on, Barber said. For instance, they were closed Friday, he said.

That also is why the exhibits have not been promoted.

"We couldn't just open it and let people wander through" the permanent exhibits while they were being worked on, he said. "They're more complex."?

But by July 14, the museum expects exhibit work to be done to the point where tours will be available, depending on staffing. "If you come to the museum you will be able to come through," Barber said.

Signs will be placed in the lobby and exhibit areas explaining the situation to visitors, he said. Also, VMNH staff members and volunteers will be stationed in the exhibit areas to explain where fire exits are and provide information about the exhibits, a museum release stated.

The museum is working with the state Bureau of Capital Outlay Management and fire officials to fulfill all requirements for general public access to the permanent exhibit galleries, according to Barber and the release.

The bureau had given the museum a list of its concerns, which the museum fixed, Barber said, explaining that the issues included such things as positioning of the sprinkler heads. The bureau then had "additional issues they wanted corrected. We are fixing those" now, he said.

"We're working with the Bureau of Capital Outlay Management to make sure everything is covered," he said, adding that guidelines for several agencies had to be coordinated at the building.

Also, the exhibit fabricators will be at the museum July 9 to determine any final work that is needed, such as touching up paint or repairing electronics, Barber said. "We don't want to open for tours until that."?

Barber emphasized that there has been no danger at the building, despite the lack of a full occupancy certificate.

"We wouldn't open it up unless we felt it was safe," he added.

About the exhibits

The "Uncovering Virginia" exhibit gallery features recreations of six research sites in Virginia where VMNH scientists and their colleagues have worked or are working. At each exhibit, there is a recreation of the site as it is today; a lab experience where visitors can examine fossil or archaeological evidence and use the same tools as scientists to interpret that evidence; and video animation.

In the "How Nature Works: Rocks" exhibit gallery, landscape models reveal how the world is shaped by geological forces that are powered by the energy deep within the planet. Each display represents both a moment in Virginia's past and a corresponding process that is happening somewhere else on earth today.

The "How Nature Works: Life" exhibit gallery demonstrates that almost all living things on earth depend, directly or indirectly, on the sun as their energy source. In the center of the gallery, a forest of botanical images reaches up toward a simulated sun, and visitors also will encounter several animal mounts.

In addition to the permanent exhibits, visitors will have the opportunity to view the exhibit "Beyond Jamestown: Virginia Indians Today and Yesterday," which is open at the museum from June 30 to Jan. 20, 2008.

The exhibit examines Virginia Indian history from Indian perspectives, and shows that Virginia Indian cultures today are vibrant and thriving.

In The Harvest Foundation of the Piedmont Great Hall a 14-million-year-old baleen whale is suspended from the 40-foot ceiling and there is a cast of an imposing Allosaur. The Great Hall also gives visitors a chance to look inside the labs of the museum's scientists.

In addition, the Hooker Furniture Theater, which features CineMuse high-definition cinema, shows a high-definition natural history video that runs throughout the day.

The museum is open Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and Sundays from noon to 5:30 p.m. Members are admitted free.

Admission is $7 for adults; $6 for senior citizens and college students; $5 for children and youth 3-18; members and children under 3 free.

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