Below are some ideas for stories about the Virginia Living Museum
50 events/exhibits for the 50th – September 2015 – November 2016
The Virginia Living Museum is celebrating its 50th anniversary with 50 special events/exhibits from September 2015 through November 2016. Created in 1966 by two community organizations to promote science education, the museum continues to be a museum leader in its use of native wildlife to present its message – stimulating knowledge, awareness and appreciation of the living world. Throughout its history, the museum has continued to receive strong community support, currently serving more than 6,000 member families and utilizing the services of 500 active volunteers. The private, non-profit museum also continues to hold itself to the highest standards – it is one of only 10 institutions in the country that is accredited by both the American Alliance of Museums and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. In 2015, the museum received the Governor’s Environmental Excellence Gold Award for Living Green in the Bay Watershed – recognizing more than 20 years of conservation education and practices. Its volunteer program is certified as a Service Enterprise by Points of Light.
Virginia’s Animal Attraction
The Virginia Living Museum offers visitors a natural history tour of the entire state of Virginia from the mountains to the sea, all in one place, all in one day. The museum exhibits more than 250 species of animals and plants found in Virginia, including 12 that are endangered or threatened. See red wolves, the most endangered mammal in north America. Touch a live horseshoe crab, an animal that was around at the time of the dinosaurs, then touch real dinosaur tracks. Explore under the Chesapeake Bay, inside a limestone cave and visit the fish and birds that live in a cypress swamp or mountain cove and touch real museum specimens in hands-on discovery centers. The museum is a great way to introduce the family to the animals that live all around them, but are not often seen. Visitors can see more wildlife during a visit to the museum than they could see in a lifetime of outdoor adventures in Virginia.
Virginia Living Museum – 50 years of dedicated support
Real estate developer Harry Wason had a vision of bringing a nature center to the city of Newport News. In 1965, he enlisted the aid of the Warwick Rotary Club and the Junior League of Hampton Roads to make that vision a reality. Chair of the original steering committee for the museum, Wason has continued to be actively involved, providing leadership and financial support for the past 50 years. His efforts have had a wide range: from the butterfly collection that started the museum’s non-live collections (a collection that now numbers more than 300,000 specimens), helping create the museum’s Endowment Fund and raising funds for museum expansions, to the donation of two iconic sculptures. Mary Sherwood Holt was instrumental in persuading the Junior League to help create the museum and has remained active for 50 years. She served two terms as board president, and along with other Junior Leaguers stepped into operations when the center was without a director. For the past few years Ms. Holt has chaired the Board of Advisors. Her particular interest is horticulture and she has played an active role in the museum’s landscaping and garden projects, including a native plant conservatory.
Animals: endangered and threatened
For many years the Bald Eagle was the poster animal for endangered species. Now our national symbol is also a conservation success story. At the Virginia Living Museum visitors can see and learn about the bald eagle and 11 other animals that are on federal or state endangered or threatened lists. See red wolves, the most endangered mammal in North America, and the loggerhead, the only sea turtle that nests in Virginia. Also on exhibit are animals that are not as well known: the Barking Treefrog, Blackbanded Sunfish, Eastern Chicken Turtle and the Roanoke Logperch. The VLM is the only place in the world that exhibits the logperch, a small darter that is native to the Roanoke River watershed. The museum participates in federal Species Survival Programs for the red wolf and seahorse, in the North Carolina Headstart Program for loggerhead sea turtles and in a shark research program with the Virginia Institute of Marine Science. It administers the North American Amphibian Monitoring Program in Virginia and leads an area chapter of the citizen science FrogWatch USA. Talk with curatorial staff about these animals and the care they receive. All are on public exhibit. Special tours offer visitors a more in-depth look.
Learn how to build, live and garden green
You’ve read all those articles about living “green” – maintaining your home in a manner that uses less energy, produces less waste, and is kinder to Mother Earth. Now don’t you wish you could go somewhere that actually shows you, up close and hands-on, how it can be done? You can at the Virginia Living Museum’s Goodson House, a “Living Green House” environmental education center. In its exhibit house and yard, homeowners, architects and contractors can see all the latest techniques and products they can use to build and maintain an earth-friendly home, presented in a way that makes them visible and understandable to the general public. The museum’s Green House (opened in June 2009) is the first of its kind in Virginia and one of the first anywhere in the United States. In 2013, the museum added 165 solar panels to the main building, one of the largest non-profit solar installations in Hampton Roads, and accompanying educational displays to demonstrate the benefits of solar power.
Animal Enrichment: raccoon finger paints, bobcat makes a den in a large box
The staff at the Virginia Living Museum engages in ongoing enrichment activities with our animals to relieve the boredom that readily available food, shelter and safety provide. Some of the enrichment involves natural-looking food and objects such as treats in blocks of ice, pumpkins, Christmas trees and coconuts. At the Animal Playground on the outdoor boardwalk the staff will use some unusual objects (treat-filled piñatas, phone books, newspaper filled basket) and games to provide enrichment. Talk with the curatorial staff about the enrichment process and photo/film some enrichment activities. There is an enrichment activity every day at 1 p.m. Special enrichment activities also occur throughout the year: Vulture Awareness Day September, Wolf Awareness Week October, Earth Day April.
Volunteers chop, dice, sort individual diets for 250 kinds of animals
There are more than 250 different kinds of animals at the Virginia Living Museum in Newport News. Each individual animal has its own special diet. Volunteers spend hours chopping, dicing and sorting all this food into individual containers. What is bird of prey chow? Which animal eats what: raisins, chicken wings, frozen and fresh mice, boiled eggs, pecan halves, minnows, mink pellets, dog biscuits, rodent chow, croaker, sunflower seeds? And don’t forget the greens! Talk to the curatorial staff about the animals’ dietary needs. Photo/film the volunteers preparing the food. Watch a public feeding.
Wild and Well – role-play exhibit for kids
Future animal keepers and vets play, learn and dream in “Wild & Well,” the permanent exhibit that opened in 2014. Designed primarily for preK to 3rd grade children, the exhibit offers hands-on exploration and learning about animal health with a secondary message about human health. In the “Be the Keeper” area, children cook, clean and care for native wild animals that live at the VLM. The area includes a play kitchen, food bins, animal diet cards and animal holding cages with life-sized stuffed animals. The balanced VLM animal diets with a good mix of meat, vegetables, grains and vitamins challenge the kids to make their own diets more healthy. In the “Be the Vet” area children can role play as a wildlife veterinary specialist. They can “diagnose” various native animals and “prescribe” and “perform” treatments to improve their health. The area includes examination tables and tools, treatment materials, life-sized stuffed animals and a display of actual wildlife X-rays. Treating the injured/sick animals will help children relate to their own illnesses and injuries. Videos and slide shows of the Museum’s animal keepers and vet tech provide inspiration for the role play.
Science and nature are “hands-on”
At the Virginia Living Museum, students experience STEM science discoveries that simply can’t be duplicated in a school classroom. At the VLM, the mid-Atlantic region’s premier science education facility, students explore all of Virginia’s physiographic regions in a day and encounter more than 250 living native species of animals and plants exhibited in their natural habitats. The museum’s indoor and outdoor exhibits are carefully designed to reinforce Virginia’s Standards of Learning for Science (SOLs) and national science standards. Every exhibit focuses on an important concept: Virginia’s physiographic regions, animal and plant adaptations, endangered and threatened species, environmental conservation, food chains and webs, predator/prey relationships and much more. The museum also offers a full menu of formal school programs that support STEM education in all grade levels, taught by a professional faculty of scientist/instructors. All school programs are grade-level targeted, fully correlated to Virginia SOLs and national standards, and combine inquiry-based investigations with real museum specimens and live animals for an unforgettable learning experience. For many students, the Museum is their only hands-on experience with nature. The Museum’s programs have been recognized by the National Science Foundation, the U.S. and Virginia Departments of Education for promoting achievement in science.