Dear Sam Noble Museum members,
It has been a year since we began to address the COVID-19 global pandemic, which impacted and changed our lives so much! One year ago, on March 12, museum staff and volunteers met in the auditorium to hear the announcement that due to the COVID-19 pandemic the museum was closing to the public, staff were to find ways to telecommute, all non-essential activities were suspended, and research was placed on hold.
I cannot say enough about how the museum staff and volunteers came together during the nearly five-month-long closure with a common purpose as we were challenged to find new, creative and innovative solutions to meet our mission and the needs of our members and audiences. I am proud that we met that challenge and were able to reopen to the public on Aug. 4, 2020.
We hope that you are enjoying our temporary exhibit line-up for spring: Dinosaurs: Land of Fire and Ice™, on display in the Brown Gallery through May 16, and Places of Power: Painted Photographs of Sacred Landscapes by Corson Hirschfeld, on display in the Higginbotham Gallery through May 2. This summer, In the Dark will open on May 29 and close Sept. 12. The exhibit features five immersive zones that enable visitors to experience dark environments and explore the unique ways animals, plants and humans adapt to areas with little to no light, including what thrives beneath the soil, under the sea, in the shadows of the night and within other dark settings.
Our onsite education programming re-started in late January. To see a list of the variety of public, adult and family programs that are being offered this spring, go to the museum’s events calendar and education website. Many of you are interested in our 2021 Summer Explorers camps and programs. We opened registration on March 1 and classes already are filling.
The museum’s curators and collection staff are continuing their creative, research and collection management activities. Some field research activities will resume this spring and continue into the summer. Evidence of the long tradition of scholarly excellence at the museum by curators, staff, research associates, graduate and undergraduate students and interns can be seen in the Collections and Research departmental summaries, along with lists of grants, contracts and publications, in the 2020 Annual Report which will be available soon.
I am pleased to announce that William Madison joined the staff as collection manager for the Native American Languages department. Lisa Ratliff will be joining the staff as public programs coordinator in April and Tia Ruppert will be joining the staff as manager of the paleontology collections programs in mid-October. We also said farewell to several staff members: Houston Spitler (IT), Michael Hatcher (Exhibits), Robbie Coyner (Facility Rentals and Public Programs) and Andy Estrada (Integrated Pest Management). We will also be saying farewell to Jes Cole (Education) and Lindsey Kaib (Volunteers) later this spring. We wish all of them well in their new endeavors; all contributed greatly to the success of the museum and its programs.
Thank you, our members, for your continued support. So many of you maintained your membership during closure, and that was extremely important to us. We also appreciate those of you who donated to support the museum’s operations, programs, exhibits and activities. Your memberships and donations are helping us through these difficult financial times and allowing us to fulfill our mission “to inspire minds to understand the world through collection-based research, interpretation and education.”
I look forward to the remainder of 2021 and the hope of a normal world. As I am writing this letter on a Saturday morning, I am looking out my office window and see the adults and families arriving for their museum visit. A recent study found that museums are safer than any other indoor activity, stating, in part, that “in spite of the COVID-19 pandemic, however, people believe that museums are places where they can visit and feel safe as long as certain safety measures are in place. People still love museums, and they believe that museums are trusted institutions that serve the public and are assets to their communities.”
I hope you find that the Sam Noble Museum is that special place and important force in our community that provides a major connection between the university and the people of Oklahoma.
Janet K. Braun, Ph.D.