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 Tuesday, December 9 IssueFaculty/Staff E-Newsletter


Our museums reflect our mission of research, education and outreach
Chancellor G.P. "Bud" Peterson

It was not an accident that the Association of College and University Museums and Galleries recently had its 2008 annual conference at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

After all, the new University of Colorado Art Museum will be a cultural jewel in the heart of campus when it opens as part of the Visual Arts Complex in early 2010. And the University of Colorado Museum of Natural History is one of the top university natural science museums in the country with more than 4 million objects in its collections. They are among three museums and six art galleries residing on our campus.

Campus museums and universities share a dual mission: that of research, and public outreach and education. These dual roles complement each other and strengthen both the museums and the university.

For example, as part of a national comprehensive research university, the CU Museum of Natural History has a strong research focus. The museum recently received a multi-year grant from the National Science Foundation to study the Gordon Alexander Grasshopper Collection, a collection of grasshoppers that CU entomologist Gordon Alexander collected more than 50 years ago in this region.

Now curators, staff and students are recollecting in the same areas to see the effects of climate change over the last five decades on the diversity and abundance of grasshoppers.

The other part of the dual mission is public outreach and education. One of the museum’s outreach programs is a seven-week program for underserved girls in the fourth and fifth grades called Girls at the Museum Exploring Science − or “GAMES.”

Studies have shown that young girls start to lose interest in science as they begin middle school. The “GAMES” programs instill a love of science and exploration that will hopefully inspire them to pursue careers in science or at least to pique an interest that will last a lifetime.

CU’s museums also play a critical role in educating our broader society. They plant a seed of inspiration in young people to pursue a particular field of science, a discipline or a career, which in turn motivates them to pursue a college education.

Our museums are a popular destination for student field trips. In 2007 the CU Museum of Natural History gave 221 guided tours and hosted 12,400 pre-K-12 students accounting for about a third of its visitors. CU-Boulder reached another 10,000 people throughout the state and region in 2007 through traveling exhibits developed by the museum.

Youngsters exposed to cultural activities at an impressionable age are more likely to take an interest and do well in school, which of course will better prepare them for higher education. It follows that children exposed to cultural activities early in their lives obtain a lifelong thirst for learning, which is the backbone of any thriving society.

The new CU Art Museum now rising from the ground next to ATLAS will feature 8,500 square feet of gallery space including two permanent collections, a changing exhibition gallery, a gallery for thesis exhibitions and a video gallery. With its enhanced climate control, the museum will now qualify to show visiting exhibitions. Located adjacent to the University Memorial Center, it will be a natural gathering place for students. In fact, students provided half the funding for the complex from the capital construction fee they approved – the fourth major building they helped to finance.

Indeed the new museum will be a cultural crossroads for artistic and intellectual pursuits, reflecting our commitment to redefining liberal arts education. It will enrich the student experience, encourage art history research and serve the citizens of Colorado by increasing access to more than 5,000 works from all over the world and spanning many periods.

I would be remiss not to mention the CU Heritage Center on the third floor of Old Main, which increases public awareness and understanding of the human history behind the university, as well as a half dozen galleries on campus offering changing exhibits and shows sponsored by student organizations.

Our museums are among the most visual embodiments of CU-Boulder’s vision for the future, Flagship 2030, providing educational outreach, lifelong learning and the tools for success for our students. They are accessible and affordable to our communities and their value cannot be overestimated. I hope you will take the opportunity to visit these marvelous contributions to our university.

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