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Virginia Living Museum opens new Conservation Command Center

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — Museum founder, Harry Wason, cut the ribbon of a new Virginia Living Museum exhibit, the Conservation Command Center, on Thursday, December 2. The vibrant and engaging exhibit focuses on local and global environmental challenges and engages guests to get personally involved in conservation efforts.

“What a relevant new opportunity for this community” stated Wason. “This is how the Museum began 57 years ago. We built this mission to educate and to share knowledge about our local ecosystems right here in Virginia.”

Built in house by staff who train and educate guests, students, and volunteers, the exhibit includes a seahorse nursery, interactive sand table, community science station, energy use calculator, and a disturbing “trash tank.”

“This is all about getting real challenges in front of and literally in the hands of youth and their families” stated Executive Director, Rebecca Kleinhample. “Every one of us can support nature as a citizen or community scientist.” Museum educators worked with a community focus group of youth and their parents to renew a Museum gallery. Input was solicited from regional school systems through a “listening tour,” shared Kleinhample. The feedback included gallery name brainstorming, and separate charrettes of students, parents, staff, and educators to determine gallery features and color schemes. The design also included incorporating environmental programs and projects that Museum staff support through their daily work and outreach efforts such as Native Habitat design. The Museum supports Frog Watch USA which trains community members to track climate change using phenology (the study of times of recurring natural phenomena) data, identify positive and negative population trends, and learn about the range and distribution of frogs and toads (especially in the northern extent of known ranges).

The new gallery is generously supported by Mr and Mrs Harry Wason, the Rona Mound and Erwin B. Drucker Charitable Trust, The Mary Morton Parsons Foundation, Dominion Energy Charitable Foundation, and the Brundage Family.

The Virginia Living Museum is a leader in natural living exhibits! Native Virginia mammals, marine life, reptiles, amphibians, birds, plants and planets are presented in natural ecosystems and honored for their ability to connect people to nature through educational experiences that promote conservation.

Accredited by both the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (living exhibits) and the American Alliance of Museums (non-live collections), the Museum’s high standards are its hallmark, as only fourteen institutions share this designation in the country. Community volunteers outnumber staff by approximately 5:1 for incredible mission delivery. The Museum is a certified Virginia Green attraction dedicated to environmentally friendly practices and education.

Created by the Warwick Rotary Club and Junior League of Hampton Roads in 1966, the Museum is an independent 501c3 organization, a successful public/private partnership with the City of Newport News and all guests.

Built by the community, beloved by the community, sustained by the community.

Located at 524 J. Clyde Morris Blvd., Newport News (I-64, exit 258-A), hours are 9 to 5 daily. Learn more at, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, or call 757-595-1900.

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