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February 1, 2019

The Virginia Museum of Natural History Foundation is leading a campaign to fund the creation of the first-ever, life-sized model of Pelagornis sandersi, an extinct species of bird that had the largest wingspan of any known bird to have ever flown.  The display will be the premier exhibit inside the Jean S. Adams Education Pavilion, a multi-season covered structure to be erected adjacent to the Martinsville-based museum near J. Frank Wilson Memorial Park.  The pavilion and its exhibits are scheduled to open to visitors in summer 2020.

"The Jean S. Adams Education Pavilion marks the largest expansion of the current museum facility since it opened its doors in 2007," said Dr. Joe Keiper, executive director of the Virginia Museum of Natural History and project lead.  "Such a monumental addition demands equally impressive exhibit elements and being able to suspend a life-like recreation of the bird with the largest known wingspan from within the pavilion will be a unique spectacle for individual visitors and visiting school groups."

The museum is working in collaboration with a Roanoke-based design firm to design and build the model.

In addition to the life-sized model of Pelagornis sandersi, the Jean S. Adams Education Pavilion will include flexible-use outdoor seating and exhibit materials interpreting the natural features and ecology of Wilson Park.

"The pavilion will serve an important need, as the museum has grown leaps and bounds since it first opened its current facility in 2007 and additional space for visitors and school groups has become essential," said Barber.  "The flexibility of the space allows it to not only house additional exhibit experiences for visitors, but provides additional space to implement educational programs during school group visits and a relaxing seating environment for visitors who are wishing to take a break from touring the main exhibit galleries."

The museum is currently accepting gifts for the design and build of the Pelagornis sandersi display.  The display will make its public debut during the unveiling of the Jean S. Adams Education Pavilion in summer 2020.

"We're very excited to see this project move along at a fast pace and believe this is a project that our patrons and supporters will be excited to help us make a reality," said Barber.

Anyone interested in helping fund the project is encouraged to visit the museum's website at https://www.vmnh.store/store/p21/pelagornis-campaign.html or contact the museum at 276-634-4163.

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