Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Waxing about that Museum

The University of Arkansas Museum served to educate and inspire generations for 130 years since its founding in 1873 by Dr. Francis L. Harvey, professor of biology and geology. Professor Sam Dellinger, longtime curator, explained that "to a state, a museum is not merely a place for study. Here in the University we have specialists who can make a study of the natural history specimens of the state and at the same time instill in our own boys and girls not only a love for their state and its worth, but also give them some idea of her wonderful possibilities."

In 2003, UA Chancellor John White had the vision to abolish the University of Arkansas Museum because it wasn't making a profit.

In 2004, community leader John Lewis had the vision and a dream “to create a world class science center that will inspire children in the sciences, enable our adults to navigate the 21st century, and we’ll do all this through the lens of the Ozarks, our people, our culture, our innovations.” He once told me that he was working to secure an affiliation with the Smithsonian Institution and assure an even broader base of visitors to our community.

Now the Northwest Arkansas Museum Foundation, the nonprofit group founded by Lewis, is seeking proposals for a site to make that vision a reality. According to executive director Brent Robinson, Science Center board members are looking for land that will accommodate a building of approximately 130,000 square feet, 310 parking spaces, and 10 bus parking spaces somewhere in Benton County or Washington County. Representatives of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville and the cities of Rogers and Lowell have already expressed interest in securing a location for the museum, which is expected to open in 2012.

UA Chancellor-designate David Gearhart now has an opportunity to correct John White's colossal blunder and submit a proposal to host the new museum at the University, reclaiming that public educational institution's intellectual contribution to "the conservation, continuation and communication to society of the world's natural and cultural heritage, present and future, tangible and intangible."

Don't look for any help from the Cowbirds, but the City of Fayetteville and its Advertising and Promotion Light Show and Real Estate Trust should partner up on this deal with the University as well. It would be a lot better than that Museum of Militarism it funds down at the Corporate Jetport in Greenland.

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