At the June meeting of the University of Oklahoma Board of Regents, I was appointed interim director and Richard Lupia was appointed associate director. Together, we have more than 50 years of experience working at the Sam Noble Museum and are committed to advancing its mission during these challenging times. We follow in the footsteps of our predecessors, Michael Mares and Daniel Swan, both of whom also directed the museum during challenging times and continue to provide counsel and sage advice.
Earlier this year, the COVID-19 pandemic changed our lives. Museums and cultural organizations in the United States and around the world are facing new challenges that require new and creative solutions as to how they will meet their missions and the needs of their audiences. The American Alliance of Museums projects that as many as one-third of America’s museums will never reopen their doors to the public due to budget losses. Others, like the Sam Noble Museum, will feel the financial impact of closure and reduced operations for years to come.
In spite of the 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.
The Sam Noble Museum reopened to the public on Aug. 4 with enhanced cleaning protocols, timed ticketing and online reservations, limited visitor capacities and reduced days of operation. To meet the needs of our visitors, the museum has begun presenting weekly public programs such as Storytime at the Sam and will add monthly programs of Let’s Craft with Spike and Conversations with a Scientist in October. We recently presented Monarchs at the Museum and will host Permian Monster Mash in October, Super Saturday: Full S.T.E.A.M. Ahead in November and a holiday public program in December. These public programs allow the museum to safely connect with the community and have a positive impact on the lives of our visitors.
We are continuing to reimagine how best to meet our state-mandated mission, particularly in outreach and education. Our Sam Noble Home program, a digital platform that provides public access to resources to support and enhance S.T.E.A.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) education, was launched this spring to address the need for distance learning resources. Expanding and enhancing the museum’s virtual learning and discovery kit programming will be a major focus until on-site programming returns.
We hope that you enjoy our temporary exhibit line-up for fall, winter and spring that includes Permian Monsters: Life Before the Dinosaurs, Facing the Inferno, Dinosaurs: Land of Fire and Ice in the Brown Gallery and photographs by Corson Hirschfeld in the Higginbotham Gallery. Facing the Inferno presents the wildfire photography of Kari Greer and serves to encourage public conversation and understanding of wildfire activity and climate change. We are pleased to highlight the research on these topics by Mammalogy Assistant Curator Hayley Lanier in this issue.
Research, collection and creative activities are being conducted safely by the museum’s curators, collection staff and graduate and undergraduate students. As noted in this issue, the museum’s curators continue to receive major grants for both research and collection improvement.
Finally, I cannot say enough about how the museum staff has come together during this time with a common purpose. The skills, experience and passion of this multi-talented, creative group will be needed as we reimagine museum events and find innovative ways for engagement while providing the best customer service and experience for our members and visitors. We are challenged to find new ways to reach students and teachers, accommodate the needs of the university and research community and to meet our state-mandated mission as the state’s designated museum of natural history in 2021 and beyond (122 years and counting so far).
As members, you are our ambassadors to Oklahoma and our primary supporters who can help make our case for continued funding at levels that allow us to serve all Oklahomans so well. We hope that you are enjoying the new monthly member email and will renew or upgrade your membership. I enlist your assistance as ambassadors of our good works to promote museum membership, partnership and sponsorship among your friends, employers and local businesses. Our legacy is to provide Oklahoma with a nationally and internationally award-winning museum that has been considered one of the best in the world. With your help and support we can return to excellence.
Janet K. Braun, Ph.D.