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Martinsville Bulletin, Inc.
P. O. Box 3711
204 Broad Street
Martinsville, Virginia 24115
Toll Free: 800-234-6575

Museum visitors far-flung

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff Writer

People from 33 states and eight foreign countries have visited the Virginia Museum of Natural History since its new building opened in March.

Visitors stateside have come from as far as California, and foreigners have come from Canada, Mexico, Belgium, China, Ireland, England, France and South Africa, the museum's board of trustees learned Saturday.

"That's pretty cool," said Director of Development Nancy Bell. From July through September, the museum had 15,645 visitors. That is 22 percent of its goal of 70,702 visitors for the fiscal year that will end next June, said Executive Director Tim Gette.

However, the 15,645 visitors equal 61 percent of the 25,698 visitors the museum averaged annually from 2003 through 2007 at its previous location in a former elementary school on Douglas Avenue, statistics show.

The museum's new 89,127-square-foot building on Starling Avenue is five times as large as the previous building and has more modern exhibits. As a result, museum officials have predicted it will lure many more visitors.

In July, the museum received 6,144 visitors - the exact number that staff had predicted for the month. The museum had 4,486 visitors in August, 142 more than expected, statistics indicate.

The 5,015 visitors in September were 1,138 fewer than expected, figures show. Officials did not speculate why.

Projected monthly attendance figures were based on monthly attendance numbers since fiscal 2004, Bell said. Some months have higher anticipated attendance due to various factors, including holidays and school schedules, she added.

Gette noted that visitors from out of town help boost the area's economy not only by paying museum admission fees, but also by fueling their cars at local gas stations, eating in local restaurants and staying in local motels.

The new building is proving to be a popular destination for local events such as conferences, family reunions and wedding receptions.

The museum budgeted $19,200 from the rental of its facilities this fiscal year. But as of Aug. 31, only two months into the fiscal year, the museum had earned $7,620 in facility rentals - 40 percent of the sum budgeted.

In other matters Saturday, the board of trustees learned:

"¢ Membership in the museum is growing. It now has 711 members. Its goal is to have 1,000 members by the end of June 2008.

There are various levels of membership for individuals. Members receive perks such as free admission for a year and invitations to members-only events and exhibit previews.

"¢ Gette is overseeing the museum's reaccreditation process.

The museum first was accredited by the American Association of Museums in 1994 and reaccredited in 1999. In a report, Gette said accreditation is a "seal of approval that brings national recognition" to a museum.


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