15 years under the dome

– Marcella K. McCluskey

The writer is a student in Comm 240 News Reporting.

Fort Hays State University’s Sternberg Museum of Natural History is celebrating its 15th year under the dome on Saturday, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. offering the same admission and membership rates charged at its opening, as part of the celebration, the museum will also show off some of the animals that have been under the dome for those 15 years.

The Sternberg Museum has been a part of FHSU since 1902, shortly after the school was established, although it was not always known as the “Sternberg” Museum. In 1915, George F. Sternberg was appointed by FHSU to help develop the museum as it moved to McCartney Hall. Sternberg was a famous fossil collector, and many of the fossils on display at the museum today were found by him or his family. Sternberg died in 1969, and the Sternberg Geosciences Club petitioned to have part of the museum named after him.

Over the years the constant growth of the collections caused a continuing need for more space. In 1991, an acquisition of a new building for the museum caused the Museum of the High Plains and the Sternberg Memorial Museum to merge and become the Sternberg Museum of Natural History. In 1999, after numerous renovations to the new building, the museum moved off-campus to its current home at 3000 Sternberg Dr.

This move is the reason for Saturday’s festivities. Brad Penka, manager of visitor services, was on the museum staff before the big move.

“I have been with the museum for 16 years. I can remember actually working as a student and being stuck in the bottom of the dorms, the basement of Custer Hall,” Penka said. “Space is a benefit; I can tell you that. The other place was horribly overcrowded, and collections were spread all over campus. Also, visibility is a benefit. Finding the museum on campus was very difficult.”

Penka is offering admission rates and membership rates at the cost they were in 1999. That means students can purchase a year membership pass for $15. The membership grants free admission to the museum as well as admission to special “Members Only” events throughout the year. There will also be other deals going on in the Excavations Gift Shop to celebrate.

Reese Barrick, museum director, has been with the museum for four and a half years. He said several special events are planned during the anniversary celebration.

“Fifteen-year-old animals will be out with Thea (Haugen, the museum’s Discovery Room manager),” Barrick said.

Haugen takes care of the living animals at the museum. Haugen said, “The animals that will be out are the Common King Snake, Shh; the Great Plains Rat Snake, Buddy; and the Yellow Mud Turtle, Cutie.”

Those three animals have been part of the museum for 15 years or longer. The human “animals” who have been on staff at the museum for that time period or longer include Penka; Haugen; Curtis Schmidt, collections manager; and Greg Walters, exhibit director.

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