Harvest support instrumental in new Museum

December 2, 2005

$1.25 M for museum: Campaign bringing in funds

Martinsville Bulletin

The Virginia Museum of Natural History has raised about one-fourth of the $5 million it hopes to collect to help pay for permanent exhibits for the new museum under construction on Starling Avenue.

A fund-raising campaign began Oct. 26. As of Tuesday, about $1.25 million had been raised. That includes $1 million from The Harvest Foundation and $250,000 raised among staff, trustees and the museum foundation's board, said Marketing and Public Relations Manager Carrie-Lyn Hobson.

Plans are to raise the $5 million over five years with the bulk of the funds being raised in the next two years, said Planning and External Affairs Director Jan Albaum.

The total cost of the new exhibits will be about $9,075,000, Albaum said. Along with the $5 million being raised, the state has committed $2,075,000 and plans to contribute another $2 million -- if the museum raises at least that much on its own, she said.

"We've got a long way to go, but we're very positive" that the goal will be achieved, Hobson said.

Donations from individuals, corporations, government agencies and private foundations are sought, she said, adding that discussions are under way with "what we potentially hope will be large donors." She would not identify them.

Potential donors that museum officials talk with are receiving an eight-page color brochure that describes what the new building will be like, as well as exhibits planned.

The exhibits will include "Uncovering Virginia," "How Nature Works: Rocks," "How Nature Works: Life," "How Nature Works: Evolution" and "Documenting Diversity."

George Lyle, vice chairman of the museum's board of trustees, and Debbie Lewis, president of the museum foundation's board, are co-chairmen of the capital campaign. Honorary co-chairmen are Ward Burton, a former NASCAR driver, and Suzanne Lacy, niece of former state House Speaker A.L. Philpott of Bassett.

Museum officials expect the new building to be mostly finished in January. Staff plans to move in next summer and the museum's special exhibit hall, library, theater and education center are expected to open in September.

The grand opening will be held in January 2007. It will coincide with celebrations marking the 400th anniversary of the Jamestown settlement.

The approximately $15 million construction cost for the new building is being paid by the state.


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