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Museum of the Earth Celebrates 15 Years with Cake and Education

At any other birthday party, it might be a little surprising if the guest of honor is a friendly green dinosaur.

For the guests of the Museum of the Earth in Ithaca, the festivities wouldn’t be complete without him. Cecil the Dinosaur, the museum’s mascot, was one of the hundreds of visitors celebrating the fifteenth anniversary of the museum on Saturday, Sept. 22, with family-friendly birthday festivities.

Guests enjoyed free admission all day, as well as special activities that showcased what the museum has to offer and a cake-cutting celebration to celebrate its fifteenth year. Activities included a story time for children with Cecil, a lecture on a book of local geology written by a Cornell professor, and a scavenger hunt for items around the museum.

Guests gather round the three birthday cakes to celebrate the museum’s 15th birthday. Photo by Annie Estes

Warren Allmon, the director of the museum, gave a few heartfelt words after the cake- cutting, thanking the museum staff and all visitors for the continuing support throughout the museum’s existence.

“It’s gratifying to see this many people come anytime, but particularly for our fifteenth anniversary because this building took a lot to build, and a lot of fundraising, a lot of planning,” Allmon said. “When it finally opened, nobody had ever seen anything like it in Ithaca. More than 500,000 people have come since then, which is just really wonderful.”

Allmon said the main goal of the museum is to bring education to everyone from professional paleontologists to those who are first stepping foot into the science world.

“The exhibits and the programs here try to meet both audiences on their own ground,” he said. “Anytime we have a day like today, where we obviously have a huge diversity of people here from the community, we are very lucky.”

Booths set up around the museum’s lower floor showcased the programming that occurs at the museum year-round. A friendly paleontologist from the museum showed off his collection of rocks to a group of excited children. An infrared camera was set up in one booth to demonstrate effects of climate change that may not be visible to the naked eye.

Museum employee
A museum employee shows off his line of work to a crowd of families. Photo by Annie Estes

David Gersh, a resident of Ithaca since 1959, said he came to the event to celebrate the wonders of the museum, and to appreciate the future generations exploring its walls. He said the museum’s kid-friendly focus on climate change stood out to him.

“I was particularly interested to see how the museum would treat the ‘hoax’ of global warming,” Gersh said. “It is interesting to see that they make it very clear that it is not a hoax, it’s a scientific fact. And we humans are messing up this planet big time, starting with the Industrial revolution.”

Robert Ross, associate director of outreach for the museum, helped man the booth with the infrared camera, which displayed a heat map of each visitor as they walked by the camera. Monitors on the table displayed information about local climate change.

“One of the programming areas we have expanded into recently is climate change,” Ross explained. “We are here to tell kids about how climate change works, what kind of data is available, and how we can see the effects in real life.”

Ross said he had the privilege of being with the museum for all fifteen years, since it opened in 2003.

“It’s wonderful to see such a variety of people coming in and using it and enjoying it,” he said, “And a little amazing to think of all the changes that have happened, yet we still remain roughly the same institution as we did fifteen years ago.”

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