October 18, 2018 | ° F

U. to enhance museum’s mission

Rutgers Geology Museum to face changes specifically in dealing with outreach to K through 12 students

Photo by Shaodi Huang |

The Rutgers Geology Museum displays fossilized remains in addition to a large variety of rock specimens including a fluorescent mineral display.

The Rutgers Geology Museum is not closing, but it will be making changes to it’s structure to enhance the institution’s mission.

Rumors circulated earlier this month that the museum would be closed or converted into a geology-themed auditorium, prompting a Facebook page to be created — “Save the Rutgers Geology Museum.”

But the museum, founded in 1872, will remain open and will continue to display current popular exhibits such as the fossils and renowned Mastodon, said Greg Trevor, senior director of University Media Relations, in an email statement.

“The Rutgers University Geology Museum will remain open,” he said. “We are looking for ways to enhance the mission of the museum — particularly our outreach to K-12 students. We want to make the experience better for visitors.”

Photo: Shaodi Huang

The Rutgers University Geology Museum, located in the Geology hall on Old Queen’s Campus, contains the fossilized remains of a Mastodon from Salem County, N.J.

Lauren Neitzke-Adamo, associate director at the museum, declined to comment on the closing of the museum in an email statement, but did confirm it.

“We can confirm this is true, and that the administration’s plan is to turn it into a geology-themed auditorium,” she said.

However, Gregory Jackson, interim vice chancellor of Undergraduate Academic Affairs whose responsibilities include overseeing the geology museum, confirmed that the museum would remain open, said Trevor in an email statement.

Lincoln Hollister, a retired Princeton University professor, said the University is eviscerating the museum, changing its use. The museum would not have the hands-on outreach use as it has had before.

“That’s why I’m all roused up,” Hollister said. “A similar thing happened to [Princeton], and it’s just very upsetting seeing a function of bringing science education to a lot of people being cavalierly dismissed.”

The Natural History Museum in Guyot Hall at Princeton was closed in the early 2000s without warning to the university community, said Hollister.

After attempting to retract her statement, Neitzke-Adamo said the Division of Undergraduate Academic Affairs is investigating several options on how to modify the space of the geology museum to bring it up to date with current fire codes and Americans with Disabilities Act codes.

“As more information about the feasibility of these plans becomes available, the Geology Museum will update [the] public on how our regular outreach programs will continue to be offered to the community,” she said.

The Rutgers Geology Museum, a geology and natural science-based museum, differentiates itself from other museums by focusing on local geology, Neitzke-Adamo said.

The items in the museum are unique to New Jersey, she said. Some of these items include a dinosaur trackway from Woodbridge, N.J., and a collection of fluorescent rocks found only in the state.

Along with exhibits, the museum hosts activities and programs outside New Brunswick, targeting grade school students, she said.

The institution holds a geology open house every year, providing children’s lectures with hands-on activities for children to learn about different aspects of geology and natural sciences, along with field trips every semester to local geologic sites, Neitzke-Adamo said.

The museum serves close to 5,000 people per year, with 50 to 100 tours for school groups, special interest groups and University students, she said.

Christian Zetino, a School of Arts and Sciences first-year student, and a student worker at the museum, said he thinks the student workers at the museum are assuming other jobs around campus.

“They said they’re going to try to incorporate us into the auditorium, but I think that we’re just going to get other jobs around campus,” Zetino said.

The museum also has multiple records of visitors that come in each week, said Ria Sarkar, a School of Arts and Sciences first-year student, and a student manager at the museum.

“I see all the kids get really excited when they come here,” Sarkar said. “I think it’s just nice for kids and families to come here and have fun, and look at everything and they get to learn also.”

After BP, an oil and gas company, and Ford Motor Company donated about $20 million to Princeton for carbon-dioxide sequestration research, the Guyot Hall museum was turned into offices for the people who administered the research project, Hollister said.

The exhibit items were packed in crates and stored in a storage area in West Windsor, he said. The collections had a resale value of about $2 million when it was stored away. The items are still in storage.

“In other words, the educational mission of the university was not enhanced by this operation,” said Hollister.

Hollister said he and a group of supporters, including about 100 Princeton alumni, campaigned against the closing of the museum by sending letters to Princeton’s administration and trustees.

The campaigners pledged to donate money to the museum’s revitalization if the administration changed their mind about closing it, which would have summed up to more than $1 million, he said.

The Princeton administration reacted to the alumni backlash by promising that a new and better museum would be built, he said. But five years later, Princeton quietly announced that it no longer had plans to construct a new geology museum.

“Even when they made that promise, we knew that they were lying,” he said. “In other words, this was a way to shut up the alumni.”

Neitzke-Adamo said the museum has to be closed at some point for renovations, but that does not mean that it will be closing as a whole.

By Chelsea Pineda

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