Natural History at The State Museum

The September program listings for events on the PA Trails of History have been posted. If you’re going to be out and about on Labor Day, you may want to check the list to see which sites will be open.

Today’s guest blogger, Beth Hager, is PHMC’s Director of Strategic Initiatives. Her post highlights programs at The State Museum of Pennsylvania (Harrisburg) related to the new Nature Lab and the work of the PHMC Natural History Advisory Committee. (Unless otherwise noted, photos below are by Beth Hager.)

Nature Lab, State Museum of PA (photo by Don Giles)
Bird feathers and eggs, writhing snakes, “Animal CSI,” a live Peregrine Falcon, turtles, Native American tools and effigy pots, and rocks from space – what do all of these things have in common? They were front and center throughout the summer in Nature Lab, the new multipurpose demonstration space adjacent to Mammal Hall and the Carboniferous Forest on The State Museum of Pennsylvania’s third floor. Set with laboratory furnishings and showcasing selections from the museum’s collections, Nature Lab is the setting for live educational presentations and hands-on learning experiences offered by museum curators and Pennsylvania scientists and naturalists.

Dan Lynch, PA Game Commission, presents "Animal CSI"
As part of a new emphasis on interpreting Pennsylvania’s vast natural heritage, PHMC staff members have been collaborating with educators and naturalists to plan exhibit upgrades and new presentations for The State Museum’s natural history galleries. The agencies include the PA Dept. of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), PA Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP), PA Game Commission, PA Fish & Boat Commission, and the State Library of Pennsylvania.

Archaeology curators Melanie Mayhew and Dr. Kurt Carr
In addition to intensive work sessions to devise an interpretive plan for the museum’s natural history exhibits and prototyping new labels for Mammal Hall, each partner agency provided special “Meet the Experts” presentations for Nature Lab. And weekly, State Museum science curator Dr. Walter Meshaka and a team of archaeologists led by curators Dr. Kurt Carr and Janet Johnson offered very popular hands-on programs emphasizing State Museum collections and research.

Dr. Walter Meshaka
Two exciting programs are coming up this month as part of the PHMC natural history initiative. “Pennsylvania’s Conservation Heritage Considered,” a noontime event on Tuesday, September 15, in the museum auditorium, will preview WITF-TV’s new short documentaries on Pennsylvania conservation legends Gifford Pinchot and Mira Lloyd Dock. The videos will be followed by an informative panel discussion on the challenges of conservation leadership featuring DCNR Secretary Cindy Dunn and DEP Secretary John Quigley. The free event is presented by PHMC, the PA Conservation Heritage Project, and the PA Association of Environmental Professionals. Museum admission will be free with the program beginning at 12:15 pm.

On Friday, September 18, the PA Fish & Boat Commission will return to Nature Lab to present “Fishes of Pennsylvania” as part of the State Museum’s Learn at Lunchtime series, 11 am – 1:30 pm. This event and admission to the museum will also be free.

Watch for details to come on more exciting things happening with nature at The State Museum – like the restoration of Mammal Hall and the Carboniferous Forest exhibit – that will inspire Pennsylvanians of all ages to understand and protect their local environment.

[Editor’s note: the new exhibit, “Challenges and Choices in Pennsylvania’s Forests,” at the Pennsylvania Lumber Museum includes an exploration of the conservation movement in Pennsylvania and its impact on the forests of today.]


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