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June 2, 2014

Community celebrates medal with natural history museum

NORMAN — Children raced through a cave, crawled through a canoe, pretended to live in a hut, ran their fingers through different animal pelts and peeked into display cases housing dinosaur remains and replicas of Oklahoma wildlife Sunday at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History.

The museum hosted a “Historic Block Party” in celebration of receiving the National Medal for Museum and Library Service. The medal, which was on display in the museum’s lobby Sunday, is like the Oscars of the museum world, said Michael Mares, museum director.

“It’s the highest award the federal government makes to a museum for serving the community. This is the 20th year, and we were one of five museums selected out of more than 17,000 museums in the United States. It’s the first time an Oklahoma institution has gotten it, so it’s a real honor,” Mares said.

He estimated at least 1,000 people would attend the event, which included complimentary admission and featured musical performances by Travis Linville, the Tequila Song Birds, Mike Hosty and Sherree Chamberlain.

Mares said the event was meant to be like a party because without the support of Oklahomans and the community, receiving the medal wouldn’t have been possible.

“We wouldn’t have been able to do it without the people of Oklahoma. They were the ones that supported us in this museum when it looked like we’d never get a museum. And we got the building and they’ve worked with us on the programs, they helped us develop the programs, and I think that — without them — it wouldn’t have happened,” he said.

As a national medal winner, Mares said they will be expected to be a pace setter and continue to improve, letting their peers learn from them. Sam Noble Museum works with other museums, and Mares travels the world telling the story of the Oklahoma museum of natural history.

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