October 25, 2005

The Harvest Foundation Supports Expansion of New Martinsville Educational Center

The new Virginia Museum of Natural History here has named its Great Hall for The Harvest Foundation. In addition to a $1 million grant, the Harvest Foundation contributed $89,000 to promote the new museum.

"The Harvest Foundation is pleased and proud to have the Virginia Museum of Natural History honor our organization this way. We are grateful for this recognition. We also believe the new museum will become a major educational center for our region, increasing local tourism and enhancing the quality of life in Martinsville and Henry County," said Douglas I. Payne, president of The Harvest Foundation Board of Directors.

The naming of the Great Hall was part of a recent unveiling by the museum of detailed designs of its permanent exhibits. In addition, the museum recently announced the launch of a $5 million fund-raising campaign in support of those exhibits.

Through a collaboration with the internationally acclaimed exhibit design team of Reich + Petch, which designed the Mammal Hall at the Smithsonian Institution, and Blue Sky Design, every corner of the new, $28 million, 89,127-square-foot museum will feature one-of-a-kind walk-through and hands-on experiences from recreations of paleontology digs to the chirp and roar of interactive sights and sounds.

The Great Hall, named for the Harvest Foundation, will feature permanent exhibits, including the enormous skeleton of an Allosaurus dinosaur and the skeleton of a whale hanging beneath a vaulted ceiling of skylights. Windows will offer a peek into the museum's active laboratories where researchers will work.

Other exhibits will include: "Uncovering Virginia," a look at the natural history of the state; "How Nature Works: Rocks; "How Nature Works: Life"; "How Nature Works: Evolution; and "Documenting Diversity," which will provide a behind-the-scenes look at what a natural history museum does and how it works.

Museum construction is expected to be substantially completed in early 2006. Staff will move into the new museum in July 2006. By late 2006, the public and school groups will be able to visit the special exhibit gallery, theater, education center and library. In addition, visitors will be able to see the new permanent exhibits being installed.

"The Harvest Foundation takes seriously its mission to research and to invest responsibly in programs and initiatives to address local needs in health, education and welfare. We believe strongly that supporting the new Virginia Museum of Natural History falls within these parameters. We are proud to play role in this initiative. We also offer our congratulations to the museum and best wishes for continued success," Payne said.

The Harvest Foundation was formed in 2002 following the sale of the Memorial Health System. The foundation oversees an endowment created with proceeds from that transaction. Capital generated by endowment investments supports programs that benefit Martinsville and Henry County residents. The Harvest Foundation's grants focus primarily in the areas of health, welfare and education. Additional information on The Harvest Foundation website:

The Virginia Museum of Natural History in Martinsville seeks to increase understanding of and appreciation for the natural resources of the Commonwealth through education, research, collections, publications, and exhibits. The museum, an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, is accredited by the American Association of Museums, a distinction earned by fewer than 10 percent of museums in the United States. A new, $28 million museum currently is being built in Martinsville. When fully completed in early 2007, the new museum will offer five times the exhibit and public space of the current facility. For more information about membership or volunteer opportunities, please call 276-666-8600 or visit the museum's Web site at


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