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June 22, 2016

The Virginia Museum of Natural History (VMNH) has received a grand collection of taxidermy mounts and fossils that will play a pivotal role in the first comprehensive update to the museum’s permanent exhibit galleries since the opening of its facility in March of 2007.  Considered one of the top private taxidermy collections in the United States, the specimens include iconic animals, such as lions, leopards and crocodiles, many of which will be displayed in elaborate scenes depicting the natural habitats of these animals.  In combination with the T. Marshall Hahn collection donated in 2010 and The Gregory Speck Collection donated in 2014, the museum will soon provide its visitors with one of the top taxidermy exhibit experiences in the United States.

"It's exciting to receive such a magnificent collection as we approach the 10 year anniversary of the current museum facility opening," said Keiper.  Through the years, we've made a plethora of additions, ranging from a 40-foot-long Acrocanthosaurus cast skeleton to the Hooker Furniture Discovery Reef, a dedicated play area for children.  Along with The Gregory Speck Collection, the incorporation of this latest collection will play a pivotal role in a comprehensive update to the permanent exhibit galleries that will provide visitors with a fresh experience."

While some museum exhibits will receive additions that subtlety enhance displays, other exhibits will receive makeovers.  The exhibit in line to receive the most extensive update is the "George and Lee Lester How Nature Works: Life" gallery, which currently consists of a wide variety of animal mounts, ranging from a tiger to arctic fox.  While some of these specimens will remain, Keiper explains that a number of the specimens will be replaced in favor of more visually striking displays.

"When the updates are complete, visitors will experience exciting new scenes ranging from lions hunting a giant water buffalo to a cougar stalking a white-tailed deer," said Keiper.  "Many of the specimens won't just appear idle, but be displayed in elaborate scenes that reflect the animals' true behavior in the wild."

The "Hahn Hall of Biodiversity" is also set to receive major additions.  The latest collection donated to the museum includes a massive - and little known - horse antelope that will be the center of a grand new entrance into the exhibit gallery.  Additionally, a highly detailed display of leopards climbing through a tree branch will hang over the exhibit's walkway.

Keiper notes that, although a heavy emphasis will be placed on taxidermy specimens, the exhibit updates will include other major additions.

"With the latest collection, we became recipients of what is possibly the largest and most well preserved Green River fossil in the world," said Keiper.  "It is so well preserved that individual teeth of the fish are still readily visible.  We anticipate that this display will be a highlight for many of our visitors."

While the museum does not have an official completion date set for the exhibit updates, it hopes to begin the process in the coming weeks.

"Some of the additions will happen relatively quickly,” said Keiper.  “For instance, in addition to our courteous box office staff, visitors will soon be greeted by a massive 15-foot-long Nile crocodile."

The latest collection was donated to the museum anonymously.

Photo Captions

Top Right:  Museum employee, Joe Dillon, climbs the artificial rock cliff displayed as part of a private collection.  Some specimens and scenery will be displayed at the museum in the coming weeks.

Bottom Left:  The 15-foot-long Nile crocodile will soon take residence inside the museum's main lobby.