The Norman Transcript

May 9, 2014

Sam Noble Museum celebrates with Block Party

by Hannah Cruz
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — In celebration of recently receiving the National Medal of Museum and Library Service, the University of Oklahoma’s Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History is throwing a party.

Scheduled 1-5 p.m. June 1, the “Historic Block Party” at the museum, 2401 Chautauqua Ave., is a free event packed full of fun. Museum Director Michael Mares said the purpose of the celebration is to honor the public for their continued support throughout the years.

“The people of Oklahoma rallied together to save the original museum from destruction,” Mares said. “Ever since, their support has made it possible for the museum to work with them in providing unique programs that benefit young people from across Oklahoma, as well as adults. This medal is for all Oklahomans.”

The National Medal is the nation’s highest honor conferred on museums and libraries for service to the community by the Institute for Museum and Library Services. Winners of the medal were selected from nationwide nominations of institutions that demonstrate innovative approaches to public service, exceeding the expected levels of community outreach.

Only five museums and five libraries nationwide were selected for the 2014 medal. Other recipients include Brooklyn Botanic Garden in Brooklyn, N.Y.; Chicago Public Library in Chicago, Ill.; Las Vegas-Clark County Library District in Las Vegas, Nev.; Mid-Continent Public Library in Independence, Mo.; Mystic Aquarium in Mystic, Conn.; North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh, N.C.; Octavia Fellin Public Library in Gallup, N.M.; The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis in Indianapolis, Ind.; and Yiddish Book Center in Amherst, Mass.

Mares said receiving the medal was a pinnacle in development for the museum. Because the award was given to recognize the service the museum provides to the community, he hopes the public will come out to celebrate.

“I think that we’re very lucky to be in Oklahoma. Very few states have been able to take a university museum that was really down on its luck 20 years ago and build a world class facility,” Mares said.

The block party, taking place on the museum’s north lawn, includes live music, food trucks, celebratory cake and informational booths on all the museum has to offer. Mares said the event is pet-friendly, with pet owners allowed to bring pets on to the outdoor museum grounds. The family-friendly event also includes free museum admission.

The museum was founded in 1899 by the Territorial Legislature of the future state of Oklahoma and located on the OU campus. In 1987, the museum was designated as the state’s natural history museum. In May 2000, the museum opened its doors as a new 198,000-square-foot facility, welcoming 2.1 million visitors since that time. The museum houses more than 10 million objects organized in 12 collections from Native American Languages to Genomic Resources.

Among the museum’s many annual public programs are community events like Science In Action/Object ID Day, Spring Break Escape, Eggstravaganza, Holiday Happening, and the annual Oklahoma Native American Youth Language Fair. Other educational programs offered by the museum include Meet the Dinosaurs, Web of Life and ExplorOlogy.

Beginning in 2008, the museum launched Free First Mondays and, in 2010, became a participant in the Blue Star Museum Program to offer free admission to military personnel and their families.

With such an award under the museum’s belt, Mares said there are no plans to rest on the museum’s laurels.

“The challenge now is to keep improving,” he said.

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