By Erin Hannon
The Environmental Science Department at Roanoke College hosted Dr. Joe Kieper of the Virginia Museum of Natural History on Nov. 9. Dr. Kieper presented a lecture at RC on “The Importance of Museums in the Twenty-First Century.”
Dr. Kieper is the Executive Director of the museum, and he began his speech by talking about how museums work and what makes his museum so unique. Virginia has a very unique and diverse ecological history and the Virginia Museum of Natural History is proud to display some of the most important parts of its natural history.
The rest of Dr. Kieper’s speech focused on the many benefits that museums provide to communities. By sharing their comprehensive collections, museums share knowledge with their communities. They give people the opportunity to see and learn about things they otherwise would not know and help educate everyone from small children to senior citizens.
According to Dr.Kieper, museums, like the VA Museum of Natural History, also help their communities through attracting tourists and scholars from across the country which in turn helps the local economy.However, what Dr. Kieper thought was the most important reason for museums continued existence is the fact that museums help eliminate people’s fear of science. Topics like the theory of evolution and global warming are sometimes hard for people to understand or accept, and museums help people overcome their fear of things that are new and different.
Following his lecture, Dr. Kieper answered the audience’s questions about how museums work, what it is like to work in a museum, and how to get involved in museum work.
The Virginia Museum of Natural History was founded in 1984. While this means the museum is relatively young, they still have a vast collection. Dr. Kieper explained that the museum houses collections from various colleges and universities in Virginia. The museum is located in Martinsville, about an hour and a half away from Roanoke, and Dr. Kieper invited all RC students to make the drive down and visit the museum to receive a “behind the scenes” tour of the museum.
For Roanoke College students who are interested in getting more involved with museums, the Virginia Museum of Natural History offers paid internships every year to Roanoke students.