2018 Museum Open House – Magnified

Mark your calendars – we will have our annual open house on Saturday April 7, 2018. The event will take place at 1315 Kinnear Rd from 10am through 4pm. Following our success form the last years, we will have some kids activities outdoors – as well as plenty of things to do and see indoors.

Our motto this year is “Magnified“. Displays will focus on magnifying all small things in our collections. Have you ever looked an insect in the eye? What does the inside of a flower look like? Are bird feathers 3-dimensional? You will find answers to these and many more natural history questions at our open house.

To stay up-to-date, please follow us on Facebook or send us a message.

Museum Open House 2017

We hope you all enjoyed our Open House last Saturday. We started the morning in the dark due to a power outage in the Upper Arlington area. Just as we moved specimens and displays outside, the power came back on at 10:30 am and we were able to invite visitors inside.

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The auditorium was creeping and crawling with all kinds of arthropods including everyone’s favorite stick insects and scorpions.

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Lots of activities awaited all kids and young-at-heart; among others you could plant a seedling, build your own bird feeder, preserve bugs in goo and get your face painted – some artists were at work here.

Herbarium, insects, tetrapods, fishes and mollusc collections had their doors open to give you insights into research in natural history collection and simply show you some of the cool specimens we have.

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You could listen to sounds of frogs, cicada, racoons and other animals in the Borror lab of Bioacoustics.

Drawing natural history specimens was a hit, and produced some very nice drawings.

We would like to thank our numerous volunteers without whom this event would not have taken place. They help with set-up, explain displays to visitors and take displays down at the end of the day. THANK YOU.

Let us know what your favorite activity or display was. We hope to see you all again next year!

About the Author: Angelika Nelson is curator of the Borror Laboratory of Bioacoustics and coordinates social media and outreach at the museum.

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Open House 2016

Last Saturday (April 23) started out cool and cloudy, but the enthusiasm of visitors and volunteers at the 12th Annual Museum Open House made it turn into an exhilarating day.  By our best reckoning, we had 2,641 guests join us to celebrate the day. Our 186 volunteers were there to welcome them and share their passion for biodiversity.

This was a year of innovation: a springtime date, outdoor activities under a massive 20′ x 90′ tent, a 2,200 gallon aquarium stocked with a variety of fish from the Scioto River, the t-shirt design contest, and a number of new hands-on activities. The support and positive feedback from the community was absolutely tremendous and thoroughly invigorating. Thanks to all who came, to all who helped to put the event together, to all our amazing volunteers, to the generous donations from visitors, and to the College of Arts & Sciences, Department of Evolution, Ecology & Organismal Biology, and to the Department of Entomology for financial support.

We’re wrapping up this year’s event (look for a more complete report at later blog post) and already thinking and planning for our lucky 13th Open House: all ideas on how to make this a better event are welcome. See you next year!


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This year we expanded to the outside of the Museum, with kids’ activities under the tent.

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Another new feature was the portable aquarium, stocked with fish from the Scioto River; they were returned to the river at the end of the day.

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One of our young visitors gets a closer look at the fish.










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A chameleon being painted on the cheek of one of our guests.

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OSU undergraduate student Christina Daragan volunteered in face painting and acquired a painting of her own.

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EEOB department chair Dr. Libby Marschall cuts chameleons out of paper plates for a kid’s activity.










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A young visitor engaged in fish-printing.

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Graduate students from the Aquatic Ecology Laboratory help with the plankton races.

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One of many young visitors who were photographed looking through a very different organism!









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George Keeney, “zookeeper” of the Insect Zoo, which is always a big attraction.

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Dr. Rachelle Adams shows roaches to visitors.

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Abby Pomento shows a Hognose Snake to a young visitor.









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Roger Thoma explains crayfish biology to visitors.

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Former graduate student Dr. Paul Larson explains DNA analysis.

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Members of the limnology lab talk about aquatic systems with visitors.









Open House Bird Lady

Stephanie Malinich, Manager of the Tetrapod Collection, with her avian headdress.

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Graduate student Liz Calhoon explains the colors of birds.

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Activities and exhibits in the Insect Collection.









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The adult phase (you can tell by the wings) of a volunteer in the Insect Collection.

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Jodi Folzenlogen explains the collection of sounds in the Bioaccoustics exhibit.

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Dr. Tom Watters, Curator of the Mollusc Collection, explains the world of mussels and clams.









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Dr. Hans Klompen, Director of the Tick & Mite Collection, shows the world of these tiny organisms to our guests.

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OSU undergraduate student Miriam Gibbs explains fish biology.

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Drs. Bill Ausich, William Schenck and Dale Gnidovec talk about fossils with our visitors.









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Exhibits in the Herbarium.

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Dr. Bob Klips explains lichen biology to a guest.

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Dr. Meg Daly, Director of the Fish Collection, and Dr. Norm Johnson, Director of the Insect Collection (and lead event organizer), enjoy a moment in the beautiful weather.











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Dr. Luciana Musetti, Curator of the Triplehorn Insect Collection, with Zach Hurley, former Curatorial Assistant at the insect collection.

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Dr. Carol Anelli, Associate Chair of Entomology, and Dr. Johnson help orient visitors.

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Kevin Lumney, Instructor in EEOB, takes a well-deserved break near the end of the event.











About the Authors: Dr. Norman Johnson is Director of the Triplehorn Insect Collection and led the organization of the Museum Open House 2016. Dr. John Freudenstein is Director of the OSU Herbarium. Norman wrote the text above and John produced the photo gallery. All photos and captions by John Freudenstein.

Open House on my mind


For the past three months I have done little else other than plan and prepare for the Annual Museum of Biological Diversity Open House, coming up Saturday, April 23, 10AM-4PM. As one of the lead organizers, my mind is full of the big items and the small details that need to be taken care of so all the many parts of the event can work well.  No wonder when it comes to my turn again to write a post for the #OSUBioMuseum blog, I can only think of one thing: Open House.

Earlier in the year I wrote about the changes we are implementing in order to handle the expected number of visitors.

Museum Open House 2.0

If all of you come to visit this Saturday — which we hope you do, and the trend (see graph below) continues, we will probably have another record-breaking number of visitors.

Graph showing visitor attendance at the Annual Museum Open House

Graph showing visitor attendance at the Annual Museum Open House

Besides changing the date (from February to April), we are moving most of the hands-on activities outside of the Museum and under a big tent. With more space available, we added a number of new activities, and expanded a few others.  Some of the all-time favorites, like the Arthropod Zoo, were given more space. The full list of activities and the collections that will be open to the public, may be seen below.

Guide to the collections, displays areas and activities of the 2016 Museum Open House.

Guide to the collections, displays areas and activities of the 2016 Museum Open House.

If you are following us on social media, we have been instagramming, tweeting and posting updates on Facebook about the upcoming event. Several of us, faculty, staff and students in the Museum, are posting on one or more of these outlets so the best way to follow is to search for the hashtag #MBDOH2016.

Now, with only a few days to go and with most of the big items taken care of, I’m having a little time to contemplate the overwhelming size of the event ahead of us. Wow!

Back in 2005 we never imagined that our Open House would become this big and successful. We only thought we would share the work we do and the amazing animals and plants we study.

But after eleven annual open houses, and knowing that so many of our neighbors here in central Ohio have the same passion and enthusiasm for the natural world as we do, we can only be thankful and try to hold the best event we can.

All the collections are working on colorful theme-related displays and we will also have new hands-on activities. We hope you can join us as we explore the role of colors in Nature during our 2016 Museum Open House.

For more information about the event please visit our Visitor Information page. Note that we have much more visitor parking space available this year.  

Before I forget, I especially want to acknowledge the work and support of my colleague Steve Smith. In 2014, when I first worked on the organization of a museum Open House, Steve had just started as the Museum’s part-time office manager. We both had to learn a great deal, and banged our heads around more than a few times. And here we are again! Thanks, Steve!


About the Author: Dr. Luciana Musetti is an Entomologist and the Curator of the Triplehorn Insect Collection.


Living Colorless

Many animals have colorful hair, fur or feathers. Many of these colors are caused by pigments, chemical compounds that absorb and reflect certain wavelengths of visible light. This makes them appear “colorful”.

Sometimes though an animal is completely white, suggesting a lack of pigments. What does it mean to be completely pigmentless? Some animals show the reverse, they are darker than usual and produce too much pigment. Animals of these two extremes, known as  albinism and melanism, are viewed as unique and often cause media sensations once discovered. Several years ago, students discovered an albino squirrel on OSU campus which quickly became the unofficial South Campus mascot and a media star, until so named “Whitey” met an early  death through a hungry Red-tailed Hawk in 2007. Highlighting the importance of color, which will be the theme for the upcoming Open House (save the date – Saturday April 23rd), we here discuss the lack of colors in some animals.

Whitey, OSU student beloved albino squirrel at his death

Red-tailed Hawk demonstrating the importance of camouflage color for survival of squirrels (James Greenebaum 2007)

What is an Albino:

One prominent pigment found in mammals and birds is melanin. Melanin causes a wide range of mainly brown and black colors; it also strengthens the hair or feathers and creates the color we observe in the pupil of the eye. Animals directly manufacture melanin, whereas other pigments, such as carotenoids, have to be taken up through food. Thus in some cases what the animal eats determines its color.

Animals that display albinism cannot produce melanin in their cells, therefore they  lack the color patterns we see in their close relatives . Their coloration and skin color are typically pure white. Also, due to their lack of melanin, albino individual’s eyes appear red or pink. Albinism  is inherited, so if both parents carry the genes for albinism their offspring may be albino, too. However, not all offspring from an albino parent will be albinistic, some may only carry the gene without any effects.

Myths and Legends of Albinism:

Not every white animal is an albino. Some animals that appear all white may in fact be leucistic. Leucism is a condition characterized by reduced pigmentation, it affects all pigments not only melanin. In this case an individual’s cells have the ability to produce pigments, but not in significant quantities which cause aberrations in color. Animals with leucism have normal or blue eye color, whereas albinistic animals have red eyes. Thus if you see an animal with blue eyes it is not an albino, because blue eyes are an indicator of some melanin. The individual is classified as leucistic. Leucism is an inherited trait just like albinism and can be passed on to offspring.

Leucistic Red-Tail Hawk (Stephanie Malinich, 2014)

Leucistic Red-Tailed Hawk
(Stephanie Malinich, 2014)

Leucistic Red-Tail Hawk (Stephanie Malinich, 2014)

Note the blue eyes in this leucistic Red-Tailed Hawk
(Stephanie Malinich, 2014)

The terms leucism and albinism are used loosely in defining different aspects of aberrations in individual coloration. Some conditions, such as “progressive greying” and “dilution,” which occur in many bird species are often classified as general leucism, though these traits are not known to be heritable.

We know that albinism is defined as the inability to produce melanin, but that doesn’t stop animals with this condition from having other pigments. Therefore species which take up pigments, such as carotenoids, from food sources may show some coloration. An illustrative example is an albino Northern Cardinal that is primarily white except for feathers with carotenoids, which are red. Note the ultimate indicator that a species is a true albino, red or pink eyes.

White and Pink Northern Cardinal

Albino Northern Cardinal
(John Beetham, 2014)

Coloration is what animals use to survive, thus animals with albinism and leucism usually have a lower survival rate. Their ability to blend in with their habitat is dramatically reduced and many albinos are easily picked up by predators. Many albino mammals cannot tolerate being exposed to the sun for long periods of time and are likely to develop skin cancers. Albino birds have weakened or easily worn feathers, since they lack the melanin that would typically strengthen their feathers.

In a way living “colorless” has brought more attention to these individuals than if they had been born with the normal coloration of their species. Because of how unique and rare some of these individuals are, people have created organizations such as “The Albino Squirrel Preservation Society”. Zoos will take in albino individuals (Claude the Alligator) to insure a longer life than they would have in the wild. If you’re curious about seeing more albinistic individuals, attend our Open House on April 23rd and see other variations of “Living Colors” in the Museum of Biological Diversity.

About the Author: Stephanie Malinich is Collection Manager of the Tetrapod Collection at the Museum of Biological Diversity.

Living Colors

Mark your calendars: Saturday, April 23. The doors of the Museum of Biological Diversity will be open from 10AM to 4PM. We will also have several outdoor activities. 


With a little more than 30 days to go until the big day, we’re now in the thick of the preparations for our Annual Museum Open House.  The theme for the 2016 event is “Living Colors.” The collections are selecting specimens and preparing displays and activities that will illustrate the theme. We are planning a number of hands-on activities for biodiversity lovers of all ages.

Here are just a few examples of the use of color in Nature that will be showcased during the Open House.

These two jumping spiders show the extreme sexual dimorphism and the use of color for sexual advertisement.

Habronattus americanus

Habronattus americanus, male (left) and female (right). From “Common Spiders of North America”, by Richard Bradley, with illustrations by Steve Buchanan. Used with permission.


Male (left) and female (right) Karner Blue (Plebejus melissa samuelis) illustrate sexual dimorphism in this rare butterfly subspecies.


Etheostoma bellum, Orangefin Darter.

The darter family, Percidae, is found only in North America, with the largest concentration of species in the Mississippi River watershed. One example of their vivid colors is shown here: Etheostoma bellum, the Orangefin Darter. Photo from the OSU Fish Division.


More information for the public about the upcoming event will be available soon at the MBD website.


About the Author: Dr. Luciana Musetti is an Entomologist. Curator of the Triplehorn Insect Collection & one of the organizers of the 2016 Museum Open House.


T-Shirt Design Contest: Award Reception

Yesterday afternoon we had a neat wrap up for the first Museum Open House T-Shirt Design Contest. Dr. Norman Johnson, Entomologist, Professor, and chair of the organization of the 2016 Museum Open House, was our emcee. He pointed out that the event T-shirt has been a tradition for 11 years now and a memento that volunteers cherish (and wear) long after the event. In fact, several of the students and staff attending the reception yesterday were wearing their preferred T-shirt. To know more about the history of the Museum Open House, check out our website.

The artist who created the winning design, Ann Faris, is a major in Art Management at Ohio State and has a strong interest in Biology. Dean Christopher Hadad congratulated Ann and presented her with the prize, an Apple Watch.

For each of the contest entrants we have certificates of participation. In addition to Dean Hadad, Associate Deans Andrea Ward-Ross and Steve Pirrell also attended. We want to thank them for their support both for the design contest as well as the Open House itself.


About the Author: Dr. Luciana Musetti is an Entomologist and Curator of the Triplehorn Insect Collection. She is working on the organization of the 2016 Museum Open House.











Busy as bees


It’s only mid-January, and the Triplehorn Insect Collection 2016 calendar is already getting crowded. So I started laying out the events and activities that are coming up. Here’s the scoop:

January 29 – Deadline for the 2016 Museum Open House T-Shirt Design Contest

2016 T-Shirt Design Contest

2016 T-Shirt Design Contest

One of the perks of volunteering to help with the Museum Open House is the volunteer t-shirt.  Since 2006, volunteers have received a unique t-shirt, designed especially for the year’s event.  The t-shirt is both practical (easy to identify the people working on the event) and so very cool (only the people who work in the event have it.)

In 2008, ‘Alien Invaders‘ became the first theme associated with the Museum Open House. T-shirt designs and colors changed over the years. Every volunteer has their preferred t-shirt and many of us take pride in having the complete set of Museum Open House t-shirts.

The theme for the 2016 Museum Open House is Living Colors, addressing the role of colors in nature. This year OSU students are invited to participate of the t-shirt creation process by entering their design idea in the Museum Open House T-Shirt Design Contest. And the winner will get an Apple Watch, plus a t-shirt! Deadline is January 29. There’s still time to participate!

April 23 – Museum Open House #MBDOH2016

As I mentioned on a previous post, the Museum Open House is getting a face-lift that includes moving to a later date to take advantage of the (hopefully) warmer weather & adding outdoor activities.  If the trend continues, we expect to break records again in the number of visitors, and we are trying to prepare for that.  Planning for the #MBDOH2016 started back in October 2015, and will pick up speed in the next several weeks. Follow our progress on Facebook and Twitter by using the event’s hashtag. Here are some photos of the Triplehorn collection activities during the Museum Open House. Many more are available on our Facebook photo albums. Check it out!

June 27 to July 1 – Insect Summer Camp

One thing we’ve learned from the Open House is that there are a lot of people, particularly kids, that are just over the top about insects and eager to learn more. To address this need, this summer we’ll have an insect summer camp: a 5-day camp (just during the day, not overnight!) targeted at middle school students. We want to work with the students to help them learn about what insects there are, how they’re put together, what they do (both the good and the bad), and how to make an insect collection. In addition to collecting, we’re arranging interesting visits and other activities. We’re working closely with the Department of Entomology and the Ohio 4-H in developing the camp. Enrollment will be limited, so if you’re interested keep a close watch on the collection’s Facebook page to sign up when the time comes.

September 24-25 – Entomological Collections Network Meeting

The ECN is a long-standing organization dedicated to the support and dissemination of information about and for entomological collections. Membership is open to anyone interested in the subject. Each year the ECN meeting brings together collection curators (like me!), managers, and users from all over the world to discuss community advancements, report on curation and collections-based research projects, etc. ECN meetings are held on the weekend before the Annual Meeting of the Entomological Society of America.

September 25-30 – XXV International Congress of Entomology 

ICE is the premier international event for entomologists and is held every four years.  The 2016 event will be hosted by the Entomological Society of America in sunny Orlando, FL.  More than 6,000 entomologists from all over the world are expected to participate.

We plan to submit our curatorial and specimen databasing work for presentation at ECN and ICE.

Besides these events, we will continue working on ongoing curatorial projects and activities, mainly:

Beetle Curation — Tenebrionidae specimen databasing: So far we have added 16,383 teneb specimens to the database (mostly between June and December 2015.)  That’s roughly 3 of our cabinets, so 7 more to go. Anyone interested in volunteering a few hours a week to help us out is more than welcome!

List of Coleoptera species in the collection: A list may not sound very impressive, but that is a very useful tool for our curatorial staff.  It’s also a laborious and tedious task which involves deciphering cryptic handwriting and/or very small typed text (ask Lauralee an Alex about that.)  Our very preliminary list of beetles contains about 13,000 species names. Based on our experience with the beetle families that we have already curated, it’s safe to say that our list of beetle species will grow significantly as we inventory the collection.

Incorporation of the Parshall Butterfly Collection — Before we can add the new donation to the general collection, all the specimen boxes and drawers need to be frozen as a preventive pest control measure. Freezing (-20 to -40°C for several days) will kill any live pests that might be hiding in the drawers. As drawers are freeze-treated and added to the general collection, and as time and funds allow, we will be inventorying and cataloging them.

200+ butterfly drawers will be placed in freezer for preventive pest control.

200+ butterfly drawers will be placed in freezer for preventive pest control.

Training personnel — Last year several undergrad student assistants graduated and left.  In addition, two of our volunteers and interns concluded their term with us and left as well.  By mid-2016 we will go through even more personnel changes as Matt Elder (after 5 years working here with us) and Katherine Beigel both graduate and head out into the world. These two students will be a tough act to follow, but that’s the nature of universities: students graduate. We expect to hire new students in the next few months to be trained and to work on specimen databasing, imaging, and curation in general.

Training of new student assistants takes between 4 to 6 months for those working 10 hours per week. Our newest hires, Martha Drake and Rachel McLaughlin, two Entomology majors that started with us last semester, are back to work after the school break and are making very good progress.

We also have a new volunteer! Jan Nishimura has just joined us this week. Welcome, Jan! She will be receiving training on handling specimens and basic curatorial skills so she can help us accomplish our goals for the year.

Service to the community — Last but not least, we serve the community by providing access to the collection for both study and outreach. We offer qualified individuals the options of borrowing specimens or coming in to examine the specimens here. We can also provide data and images upon request. We welcome groups and individuals, on an appointment basis, for guided tours of the collection.

The new year came full of challenges, but full of possibilities as well. We are embracing it, keeping very busy, and relishing the chance to discover something new or beautiful each and every day.


About the Authors: Dr. Luciana Musetti is an Entomologist and the Curator of the Triplehorn Insect Collection. Dr. Norman Johnson is the Director of the Triplehorn Insect Collection. He made a significant contribution to the post and shares the authorship.

Museum Open House Photo Album


With the 12th Museum Open House coming up on April 23, 2016, I thought it would be fun and instructive to look back at the previous events. I asked everyone in the building to share their photos and here are some of the best. I hope you will enjoy.

In case you would like to learn more about our Museum Open House, please visit the event page on the MBD website. We are building a historic record of our Open House and have already added a brief summary page for seven of the previous eleven iterations of the event.

2005 – 2006 – 2007



2008 Alien Invaders | 2009 Voyages of Discovery



2010 Symbiosis |  2011 Extreme Biodiversity



From the 2012 Museum Open House on, the number of photos available skyrockets. There are so many great images! I’ll have to continue sorting through the lot and later add another post with more photos.

By the way, did you see yourself or somebody you know on the photos?  If yes, please drop me a note to let me know. I’m trying to annotate the photos as I go along for future record. Thank you!


About the Author: Dr. Luciana Musetti is the Curator of the Tripehorn Insect Collection and a wannabe photographer.

Photo credits: This batch of photos came from ASC Communications (2005), Rich Bradley (spider displays), Luciana Musetti and Charuwat Taekul (Triplehorn Insect Collection), Angelika Nelson (Borror Lab, Tetrapod Collection, Auditorium, Outdoors)


Museum Open House 2.0


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?

Speakers at the 2005 Museum celebration

Speakers at the 2005 Museum celebration

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.

View of the Museum auditorium during the 2014 Open House

View of the Museum auditorium during the 2014 Open House


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.

Setting up a display at the Triplehorn Insect Collection

Setting up a display at the Triplehorn Insect Collection

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.