Executive Director’s Message

From the Executive Director features news and reflections on the work of PHMC by its chief administrator.

“Please, don’t change Mammal Hall!”

Whenever I mention our plans for The State Museum of Pennsylvania, nearly everyone immediately recalls the wonderful dioramas that depict the Commonwealth’s abundant natural heritage. I have not seen an exhibit on a similar theme anywhere in my travels throughout the country that rivals its artistic and educational value. Those loyal visitors who are strongly attached to our interpretive exhibit gallery will be pleased to know that we celebrated the twenty-fifth anniversary of Mammal Hall in 1993 by painstakingly cleaning each diorama, replacing lighting, and remounting several animal models. The hall now looks better than ever!

In addition to the long­-overdue cleaning and repairs, the staff of The State Museum created new exhibits that certainly will inform and entertain future visitors. For one exhibit, the museum’s archives provided a lode of original drawings that depict the process of designing and installing Mammal Hall. Special features on the artists, creators, and craftsmen who engaged in this arduous task shed light on how this fasci­nating – and ever-popular­ – gallery took shape.

Our second new exhibit is the Dino Lab. Through the generosity of Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Museum of Natural History, we acquired a two hundred and twenty-five million year old fossil of a Coelophysis, a late Triassic period dinosaur, embedded in four tons of mud rock. Over the next ten years, professional techni­cians and trained volunteers will meticulously excavate the skeletal remains of our prized dinosaur in full view of museum visitors. A new diorama has also been installed to illustrate the conditions in which the fossil was discovered in New Mexico.

Not only do these new exhibits complement Mammal Hall, they also chart new directions for The State Museum. Essentially, we have turned the museum inside out, putting on display the actual techniques and creative talents that are usually kept from public view. We want to show both the scholarship and the artistry that are needed to create and implement museum programs of the highest caliber. We now offer a series of galleries that expands access to our collections and en­hances educational opportunities. As a result, the museum is more entertaining and enriching – not to mention more fun! – for visitors of all ages. And, no, we will not change Mammal Hall.

I am impressed by the ability of our staff members to find new ways to engage our audience, to redefine the purpose of this exciting facility, and to develop fresh approaches to the exhibition and use of our collections. The State Museum of Pennsylvania will celebrate its centennial next year, and there is no question in my mind that its best days are still ahead.

Brent D. Glass
Executive Director