By Sara Marino, The Gainesville Sun GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — The concept of how the Florida Museum of Natural History wanted to celebrate its 100th year loomed in the back of employees’ minds for years. Until, it was decided that each area would put up its finest work from the last 100 years and create one big exhibit, which is called “Rare, Beautiful & Fascinating: 100 Years @FloridaMuseum.” “In some cases we wanted them to identify objects or artifacts that were particularly rare or unusual,” Doug Jones, Director of the Florida Museum of Natural History said. “Other times another criteria would be an object that’s particularly beautiful or an object or artifact that was scientific very significant.”
The exhibit, which is free, opens Saturday with special activities from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. “Rare, Beautiful & Fascinating” also features an audio tour and scavenger hunt, which can be done through guest’s cell phones, as well as a working lab where guests can see scientists from a different collection each week. The process for picking the pieces that would be in the exhibit started with the museum asking their employees to submit what they thought was their most important or beautiful work. From there, a committee was picked to narrow down the choices to about 100, according to Jones. “We care for more than 40 million specimens and objects, so it’s (the museum) an enormous scientific resource and an enormous collection of things,” Jones said. “A lot of people don’t understand why we hold these collections or what use are these collections, so what we’re attempting to show is that the collections are aesthetically important, but they’re also scientifically important.” According to Jones, in the last 100 years the museum has grown from 50,000 objects in the collection to now more than 40 million, along with staffing from only two employees to now 350 people. “The museum began up at Lake City Agricultural College and then that moved to Gainesville to become a part of UF in 1906, the museum was there at that time and then it grew from 1906 for the next 10 years and was recognized as a big state resource and declared it the official state museum of Florida,” Jones said. Darcie MacMahon, the museum’s exhibits and public programs director, said the staff feels very fortunate to be staffed during the museum’s 100th birthday. “It’s allowed us to focus on the important things that we contribute to at the museum,” she said, “kind of the world issues that our research address and the importance of collections to understanding those issues.” MacMahon said this particular showcase — which features such specimens as a 26-foot-long humpback whale skeleton and extinct species — will be different from ones in the past because it will show things that have rarely been seen by the public.
“What we show here at the museum is just the tip of the iceberg,” she said. “The exhibit gave us a chance to ask all of the scientists, well hey, it’s our 100th anniversary, what would you like to show, what do you think is important in your collection, so it’s an interesting assortment of objects because they all tell different kinds of stories.” Julie Waters, the exhibit director, said that objects were put together from about 17 other collections to make this particular showcase. “I’m extremely excited about this exhibit opening,” she said. “It has been a monumental effort from numerous individuals and being able to see it come to completion and sharing everything with our visitors is going to be extremely rewarding.”