Sunday, August 23, 2009

Statement and Thanks

First, thanks to the folks at Turtle Rock Coffee for collecting $35 donations for the Friends of the SH Knight Geological Museum effort. You can find a link to Turtle Rock's website on our "Supporting Businesses" sidebar. This has been a preferred location for Friends meetings this summer.

In response to the many questions asked of us with the advent of the fall semester and announcement of part-time museum hours in a Saturday, August 22, university press release, the Friends of the SH Knight Geological Museum issues the following statement:
 University of Wyoming administration decided to close the geological museum on campus effective July 1. A nonprofit community benefit organization, the Friends acknowledges the public’s general disagreement with this decision, expressed in letters to state and university leaders and newspaper editors, signing of petitions, and direct correspondence with the Friends.
 A Saturday, July 18, university press release announcing the decision to reopen the museum part-time with security in place resulted in further outcry from the general public, university alumni and scientific , education, and museum communities through additional letters, editorials, professional statements and participation in an online newspaper survey.
 In direct response to the August 22 press release stating “the UW Foundation provided funding for a part-time security guard to ensure the safety of the collection,” the Friends understands that in the 122 years of existence of the geological museum, those visiting from the university and wider communities had done so for the learning opportunity and that the museum display collections must be protected for the people, not from the people. In addition, presence of a curator during those years enhanced visitors’ interaction with the displays.
 University administration has stated that state budget cuts were the sole factor in the closure of the museum. State block grant funding had provided the museum’s entire $80,000 annual operating budget, including curator and office assistant salaries, utilities and other operating expenses. The museum itself did not have a development director and was prohibited from seeking larger outside financial contributions over the years.
 Despite these constraints, the curator was able to maintain a museum recognized not only locally and across the State of Wyoming, but nationally and internationally as well, as a topnotch scientific, educational and research facility.
 The museum brought uncalculated economic benefit to Laramie and the state, including from tourists all across the country who planned vacations to Wyoming just to see Big Al.
 With the sudden June announcement that the museum would close on July 1, those of the general public and scientific, educational and museum communities who know firsthand the value of the museum have helped bring awareness to the administration of its importance.
 Now that administration has agreed to convene a university group and to allow the Department of Geology and Geophysics to pursue a plan for a fully staffed reopening of the museum in the future, the Friends looks forward positively. We will continue to collect and hold contributions to this effort in our nonprofit account through the Laramie Community Foundation, 505 S. Third Street, Suite 100, Laramie, WY 82070.
 The Friends does not agree with the present part-time solution and has not relinquished monies given the organization to the part-time opening of the museum with a security guard. As we maintain our mission to pursue fully functional status of the museum, we will turn over those funds only to an option in which monies are insured to be used solely for this purpose.
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