Recently I was asked to write an op-ed, one that encouraged students to visit the Idaho Museum of Natural History (IMNH). Naturally this task came with an inherent question, “why should students – or anyone for that matter – visit the museum?”
There are of course many answers to that question: it’s a cheap place to take a date, visiting the museum supports your school and the community, or perhaps one simply needs to burn up a bit a time while the folks are in town.
While all of these are acceptable answers, they all fall a bit short of capturing the true import of museum patronage.
A better answer may be one that speaks to the inherent value of knowledge – a bit cliché perhaps, but true nevertheless. Benjamin Franklin may have said it best, “an investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” (Note: this wisdom doesn’t seem to apply when one is paying back their financial aid.)
This is a sentiment that many of us can relate to – we are, after all, students endeavoring to improve ourselves via the avenue of education.
Museums serve a similar purpose, but there is an important distinction. School, namely higher education, is intended to give you professional credentials.
Visiting a museum will not figure into your resume. Potential employers may be impressed (or even confused) by your chronicle of museum benefaction, but it probably won’t get you the job – but that is not the point.
A museum is a place of public education.
You do not have to be a student of biology, history, or anthropology to appreciate the treasures found within.
Museums, like libraries, are institutions whose primary purposes are the democratization of knowledge and information, a most noble endeavor indeed.
In a recent interview, Thomas P. Campbell, the current director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art said, “Museums provide places of relaxation and inspiration. And most importantly, they are a place of authenticity. We live in a world of reproductions – the objects in museums are real. It’s a way to get away from the overload of digital technology.”
Fortunately for those of us attending ISU, there is just such an institution on our own campus. IMNH offers the very authenticity of which Dr. Campbell speaks.
Our museum’s exhibits are often the product of ongoing research and recent discoveries, such as the recent display, When Giants Roamed, an exhibit that featured the tusks of a Columbian Mammoth discovered near the American Falls reservoir.
The IMNH’s current exhibits, Evolving Idaho and Gone Fishin’ are likewise focused on our great state’s fascinating history.
Evolving Idaho focuses on the evolution of Idaho’s diverse array of flora and fauna, and is largely the product of research done in ISU’s own biology department.
Gone Fishin’ explores the biological diversity of Idaho’s fish, as well as the history of fishing in Idaho.
The IMNH updates its exhibits every six months, so there will frequently be something new to see.
As an affiliate of the Smithsonian, the IMNH will be presenting the Smithsonian traveling exhibit Titanoboa: Monster Snake this coming spring.
The exhibit will include a replica of the prehistoric Titanoboa snake from South America measuring some 48 feet in length. The IMNH is open Tuesday through Friday, 12 to 6 p.m. and Saturday & Sunday 12 to 5 p.m.
Student admission is only $2 bucks!
For more information visit the Museum online at imnh.isu.edu.