Mark your calendars: 2016 Museum Open House – Saturday, April 23rd
Those who are familiar with the Museum of Biological Diversity Open House have probably heard say that we are the largest outreach event in the College of Arts & Sciences at Ohio State. That’s a delight for the people who put the event together, and a big responsibility too.
The Open House started way back in 2005 with a two-day special event celebrating the Museum and the university’s biological collections. The program started on Friday, April 29, with lectures from various Museum alumni, from ichthyologists to botanists to entomologists, and continued with a reception and dedication of the OSU Insect Collection in honor of its long time curator, Dr. C. A. Triplehorn. The first day of the program closed with a lecture by Dr. Peter Raven entitled “How Many Species Will Survive the 21st Century?”
On Saturday afternoon the Museum opened its doors and welcomed the public for guided tours of the facility and hands-on activities. The event was a success and motivated the people in the Museum to hold an Open House the next year, and the next, and on for the past 11 years.
As the event grew, new activities were added, more volunteers joined in, and our audience increased. Over the last three years (2013-2015) the event attendance more than doubled. We welcomed over 2,700 visitors in 2015. That’s an average of 450 people per hour for a 6 hour event — a manageable number, assuming that the audience is evenly distributed throughout the total hours of the event. However, that’s not the case: most of the Open House visitors come in between 11AM and 2PM, only three hours. During this period we reached a peak of more than 700 people in the building at one time. That turned out to be a bit too cozy for comfort.
Our enthusiastic visitors tell us they would like less crowds and suggest a two-day event, or maybe more than one Open House a year. We wish we could, friends, we really do, but we cannot. We don’t have the staff or the resources to hold more than the one day Open House each year.
Because we do not have dedicated display areas, in order to welcome our guests during Open House, we have to free up space and move furniture and equipment that are normally used for research and curation. After the event, we need to put all that stuff back in place before we can return to our daily work routine.
In the insect collection, which is what I know best, it takes us roughly 2 months to plan and prepare displays and activities for the yearly Open House, plus one week to move furniture, do some cleaning, and set up displays, plus one week to take everything down and put it all away.
And there’s the toll on our people, the Museum staff and the dedicated volunteers that make the Open House the amazing event it is. For us, Open House is an exhilarating experience: we plan it, we work really hard to make it happen, we’re proud of it. On the day of the event we get up early and we spend at least 6 hours straight standing on our feet, talking, running activities, interacting with our guests. We love it, we give it all we have, but at the end of the afternoon we’re completely and utterly exhausted, our feet hurt, our voices are gone … and there’s still work to be done after the doors close.
In response to the success of the event, and the consequent overcrowding, and taking into consideration our own limitations, we decided to try something different for next year. If we cannot hold longer, or multiple Open Houses, we thought we would hold the event a little later in the year to avoid the cold and the snow and move some of the activities outside.
We picked Saturday, April 23rd as the date for the 2016 Museum Open House. Some of the hands-on activities that do not involve fragile museum specimens will be set up at the large Museum front yard, while our weather-sensitive specimens, displays, and activities will be available in the auditorium and in the collections.
Will this new formula work for our event? We hope it will, but the proof is in the pudding. So please plan on joining us this spring, April 23, (the day after Earth Day!), to learn more about our Museum, our impressive collections, and about the breathtaking biodiversity of the world we live in.
About the Author: Dr. Luciana Musetti is Curator of the C. A. Triplehorn Insect Collection.