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Museum's great hall gets an 'ancient' new name
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Virginia Museum of Natural History Executive Director Joe Keiper (left) and Larry Ryder, board member of The Harvest Foundation, pose under a sign denoting the museum’s Hall of Ancient Life, formerly the Great Hall. (Bulletin photo by Mickey Powell)

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The Harvest Foundation of the Piedmont Great Hall at the Virginia Museum of Natural History has been rechristened.

The large room, which contains numerous exhibits and frequently is used for special events, now will be known as The Harvest Foundation of the Piedmont Hall of Ancient Life.

A private ceremony marking the name change was held at the museum on Monday night. About 30 employees and museum supporters attended.

The name change reflects the museum’s intent to put more natural history specimens on display in the hall, according to Marketing and Public Relations Manager Zach Ryder.

The hall, like the rest of the current museum building on Starling Avenue in Martinsville, opened in 2007. Harvest gave a $1 million grant to help develop the museum, and the hall is named in its honor.

The new name is a culmination of efforts by museum staff members, the museum’s board of trustees and Harvest officials, said museum Executive Director Joe Keiper.

Larry Ryder, immediate past chairman of Harvest’s board of directors and a member of the Virginia Museum of Natural History Foundation’s board, said the new name better describes the museum’s mission for the hall.

“There are many factors that make museums good, like hands-on exhibits and engaging programs,” Larry Ryder said. “What really makes museums great, though, is the ability to tell meaningful stories.”

The best museums are “constantly evolving to tell new stories,” he noted, “... so that we may better understand our world today and what the future may hold.”

“After much planning,” he said, “this room will now feature additional new exhibits from our region’s ancient past to provide new visitor experiences.”

Keiper said that while some exhibits in the hall will remain on permanent display, others will change from time to time. That will help keep museum visitors — including children and their teachers who educate them about natural history — inspired and wanting to visit repeatedly, he said.

Among new specimens that will be put on display are skeletons of modern animals that show “connections to ancient life,” Keiper said. He noted that extinct species now outnumber the many different animals on Earth.


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