Dino-riffic: Museum gets huge grant

After private donations and now a $3 million bond allocation, all the yet-to-be-built Natural History Museum needs is $2.8 million, and if you have that kind of dough, you even get to name it.

A regional board of directors has been working on the project and convinced Chico State University President Manuel Esteban that it should be located on campus, near the Bidwell Mansion, where it would draw schoolchildren to the university and tourists downtown.

On Oct. 21, while stumping for re-election in Chico, Gov. Gray Davis announced that he has directed that $3 million in Proposition 40 funds be dedicated to building the 15,000-square-foot Northern California Natural History Museum, which would teach about the heritage of the area and include a classroom, lab and computer facilities along with traveling and permanent exhibits featuring everything from geography to Pleistocene saber-toothed cats. Visitors will even be able to see Ishi’s foothill camp. “Our communities grow stronger when we preserve our natural and cultural heritage,” Davis said.

The campaign to build the museum has now garnered two-thirds of the money needed for the $9 million project, of which $2 million is actually the valuation of the Chico State land. It’s hoped that the museum will open in spring 2005.

The bond money is “a giant step forward,” said Dr. Raymond Barnett, a Chico State biological-sciences professor and the director of the museum who has been working on it for five or six years. He said the region has been lacking a place where students of all ages can learn about their history and “natural beauty of our resources,” from the coast to the valley to the foothills to high mountains.

It may have helped, Esteban mentioned at the Oct. 22 Academic Senate meeting, that Davis’ chief of staff is a Chico State graduate. That person will likely get a nice thank-you note from the university, as will Davis and Assemblyman Dick Dickerson, R­Redding, who as a lame-duck legislator appealed the cause to the governor.

Oh, and to fork over that $2 mil: contact Major Gifts Director Jessee Allread at 894-2848. If you only have $750,000, you can still get the Great Hall named after you, or an exhibit hall or classroom for $500,000, on down to "exhibit component names" for the low, low price of $100,000. The biggest private donation thus far has been $500,000 from Dr. Marcia Moore in honor of her late husband, Jim Cornyn, for the Worlds of Northern California exhibit. Also, $100,000 has been secured for the Glen and Virginia Toney Age of Dinosaurs exhibit.