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VMNH board weighs travel issues
Sunday, August 26, 2012
By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff Writer
Trustees of the Virginia Museum of Natural History are trying to figure out how they can best keep in touch with state lawmakers.
The museum, on Starling Avenue in Martinsville, receives most of its funding from the General Assembly.
Earlier this year, the trustee board — which usually meets at the museum — held a quarterly meeting in Richmond to coincide with a Jefferson Awards ceremony there. The museum sponsors the annual awards.
Museum officials who attended that meeting were able to visit lawmakers and discuss the institution’s needs.
In recent years, the Jefferson Awards ceremonies had been held in Martinsville. Now, however, they are now being held elsewhere to give the museum more of a statewide presence. Next year’s ceremony will be in Blacksburg.
During Saturday’s meeting of the trustees, board Vice Chairman Missy Neff-Gould of Richmond voiced concern that two “out of town” trips — Blacksburg and Richmond — next year might be too costly for the museum.
Neff-Gould suggested that trustees meet privately with their local delegates and senators this fall in their home districts before the lawmakers go to Richmond and become preoccupied with General Assembly business.
Board Chairman Sammy Redd of Martinsville suggested holding a meeting in Richmond every three years due to travel costs and logistic concerns.
However, board member Stephen Walker of Charlotte Courthouse said he thought meeting with lawmakers in Richmond this year was “very beneficial.”
Mervyn King, a board member from Martinsville, said he thinks “more can be accomplished” by discussing needs with the lawmakers who represent them due to the “direct personal connection” involved.
Walker said he does not want board members to lose connections with state lawmakers they have met but who do not represent them.
Redd told museum Executive Director Joe Keiper to put together some “cost scenarios” for board trips away from Martinsville.
They did not elaborate on those scenarios, but Redd said that perhaps a limited number of trustees could go to Richmond for next year’s legislative session and visit with lawmakers there.
If all go, “we as board members should pay our own way,” he added.
Keiper noted that lawmakers representing Henry County-Martinsville now do not live locally, so “we have to sound our own horns” to get their attention.
Pam Armstrong of Martinsville, a board member who is the wife of former delegate Ward Armstrong, did not comment but smiled as Keiper made his remark.
Also Saturday, the trustees reviewed a lengthy list of objectives that will be combined with the museum’s two-year vision plan.
The vision plan’s theme is “A Museum Without Walls.” The vision reflects the museum’s efforts to reach people across the state — not just those who visit its Martinsville building — with programs and exhibits showing how nature has evolved in Virginia over many centuries.
For instance, one of the listed goals is to increase public understanding of the museum’s mission. An objective for achieving that goal is to establish blogs on the museum’s website in which curators and other employees can discuss their work with the public.
Keiper said some of the objectives may require extra funding but he thinks “a lot of this is (accomplishable through) staff time.”
By including objectives with the goals, “we will be able to gauge” success toward meeting the goals, Redd said.
The board indicated it will consider the objectives for approval during its Nov. 17 meeting.