'Living off the Land' at VMNH

June 2, 2011

By ASHLEY JACKSON - Bulletin Staff Writer

A new exhibit at the Virginia Museum of Natural History called “Living off the Land” will highlight Virginia’s outdoors, including wildlife, hunting, fishing and conservation.

The National Wild Turkey Federation and the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries are the lead sponsors of the exhibit, which will open Saturday.

The museum also partnered with Virginia Tech for expertise and materials. Virginia Tech donated some of the animal mounts from former Virginia Tech President Dr. Marshall Hahn’s personal collection, according to museum information.

There are several mounts featured in the exhibit, including deer, turkey, birds, geese, ducks and fish.

Some of the trophy deer mounts are part of the late Tom Fleenor’s collection. Fleenor volunteered at the museum, officials said.

Also featured is museum trustee Dr. Mervyn King’s antique firearm collection. The collection contains firearms from the 1400s to the present.

The evolution of bows and arrows and camouflage from the Native American time period to the present also are on display.

This exhibit is exciting for the museum because it is an in-house project, and the idea originated in the museum instead of with an outside agency or other museum, said Ryan Barber, director of marketing and external affairs at the museum.

The idea for this type of exhibit began after the death of Fleenor in 2010. The museum staff talked about wanting to do an exhibit using his mounts, and it developed from there.

The normal cost of an exhibit is between $20,000 and $35,000, but this one cost only about $10,000 because of all of the donations and because it is an in-house project, Barber said.

In-house exhibits are “the best ones,” he said, adding that they are the best received by visitors.

Barber said the exhibit offers something different and can reach a new audience and demographic. Outdoor activities such as hunting and fishing are popular in this region, and this exhibit will help the museum reach out to hunters and fishermen, he said.

The museum staff has been working on the exhibit since the beginning of May, building new displays, mounting new signs and adding new barriers, Barber said.

The “Living off the Land” exhibit runs from June 4 through Jan. 14, 2012.

On June 4 when the exhibit kicks off, the museum will host a family festival from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., with activities for children as well as several vendors.

One of the children’s activities will be guided by a private group, Wilderness Adventure. This activity will take place in Wilson Park behind the museum, and the children will learn how fire is made and trees are identified, Barber said.

This summer, the museum is offering a discount admission rate. The price for a tour of the museum is $5 for adults, $4 for college students and seniors and $3 for children aged 3 to 18.

Also this summer, there is $10 off the price of any membership.


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