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Virginia Museum of Natural History building ties with Waynesboro

Virginia Museum of Natural History
Virginia Museum of Natural History employees put up the display of a triceratops at the Waynesboro Public Library. Photo courtesy Virginia Museum of Natural History.

The triceratops on display at the Waynesboro Public Library, courtesy the Virginia Museum of Natural History, might just inspire the next generation of scientists.

“This is a really good look at what scientists study, and from that standpoint, it’s inspirational,” said Joe Keicher, the executive director of the museum, which is actively working on plans to bring a satellite location to Waynesboro.

“We want the young boys and girls that are going to come here, we want them to be inspired by it to want to learn more about science, and for those that once they get a little older, you know, maybe consider a STEM-based career, with the start from learning about the natural world,” Keicher said.

The plan is to have the display live at the library through the summer of 2022, and Keicher said the museum, which is headquartered in Martinsville, is looking for community partners to locate additional similar displays.

This is all part of a strategy from VMNH to build a presence in Waynesboro, an effort that has been nearly a decade in the making.

“With our ambitions to build this VMNH branch campus right here in Downtown Waynesboro, we just want an opportunity to show people give them a taste of what we will be installing here in the community, to develop further interest and excitement, because it is exciting,” said Keicher, providing an update on the progress of the project this week.

The momentum on the project has picked up in the past couple of years. The museum completed the state’s pre-planning process in 2019, putting a project scope and projected price tag – currently at $20 million – on the table.

The next steps got behind schedule with the COVID-19 redshirt year, but things are back on track now. The museum is moving forward with hiring an architect to flesh out the details of design, with the goal of having a set of plans to work from by the first quarter of 2023.

“If everything were to go magnificently, and there’s always challenges here, but if it goes magnificently, July 1, 2023, we will be ready to put a shovel in the ground,” Keicher said.

Assuming that goes as planned, or close to it, we could see a grand opening for the new Waynesboro location sometime in 2025.

That’s still a ways off, so time and effort is being put into building a community connection with Waynesboro.

Plans include reviving the lecture series at the Wayne Theatre that was put on hold by COVID, and Keicher said the museum is talking with other potential partners about ways to “develop some more excitement.”

“The goal is, in a couple of years, maybe what we have is a little itinerary, you can go to these different places, and even though each one has their own little mini-exhibit, maybe all together as you do this itinerary you find yourself basically having experienced a full exhibit on science, particularly as it focuses on this region of the world,” Keicher said.

Story by Chris Graham


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