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May 3, 2007

Press Release: Martinsville Bulletin

Thursday, May 3, 2007

By DEBBIE HALL - Bulletin Staff Writer

This year's opening of the new Virginia Museum of Natural History building is one of several events making 2007 special in the commonwealth, Secretary of Natural Resources L. Preston Bryant said Wednesday.

This year also marks the 400th anniversary of the founding of Jamestown, the completion of a restoration project at the State Capitol and the 20th anniversary of the Jefferson Awards presented by the Virginia Museum of Natural History, said Bryant, the keynote speaker at the museum's annual Thomas Jefferson Awards program and luncheon.

The museum's mission is "to inspire everyone, especially Virginians, to experience, learn and marvel," he said.

As Virginians, "we know we have a past in civilization ... that's worth learning and knowing about," Bryant told those attending the luncheon at Chatmoss Country Club.

Society also has moved from the agrarian society of the past to an industrialized society and, more recently, into the information age. Computers represent the largest export of the state, Bryant said.

"We're evolving tremendously," he said, and with that evolution and the ensuing population growth, "we're seeing significant changes in our commonwealth."

"Immigration is a hot topic ... but a good thing" for Virginians from Jamestown through present day, he said. "It has made our fabric the rich fabric that it is. ... (It) makes our quilt quite a unique pattern."

In the book "Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed," author Jared Diamond states that societies decide on success or failure because "we are in control. We do have options," Bryant said. "Our fate is quite literally in our hands."

Iceland, Bryant said, is about the same size as Virginia. However, with 300,000 residents compared to the commonwealth's nearly 3 million in 2006, Iceland is a "very rural and very sparse country."

As the leading exporter of optical medical equipment and with a 100 percent literacy rate, it also is a success story, in spite of its soil eroding into the seas, Bryant said.

"We can learn from that," he added. The museum "has an important role to play ... We have a lot to learn, and the Virginia Museum of Natural History has a lot to teach."