Henning Museum opens Nov. 3
October 26, 2006
What started as a collection of a stunning variety of plants and animals housed in display cases on the third floor of Mercer Hall has evolved into a natural history museum honoring the man who started it all.
On Friday, Nov. 3, at 1:30 p.m. Bryan College and community officials will cut the ribbon officially reopening the Willard Henning Natural History Museum, then will welcome the community to a day-long open house on Saturday, Nov. 4, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Dr. Todd Wood, director of Bryan’s Center for Origins Research and of the museum, said the collection “reflects Dr. Henning’s extremely diverse interests.” Among the approximately 100,000 items in the collection are rocks and fossils from coal mines in Rhea County; African lions; sea shells, including specimens of extinct species; a bald eagle; reptiles; and “weird things, like a four-legged chicken.”
Many items in the collection were damaged or destroyed in a fire in 2000, and college staff and volunteers have worked since to clean or repair specimens that survived. Despite the losses in the fire, “The museum has been one of the most valuable educational resources at the college for the science department. We have things you just cannot get today; for example, the bald eagle. It has been a valuable resource for the community as well,” he said. “I have met many people who, when I tell them what I do, will ask, ‘Do they still have the stuff on the third floor? I visited there when I was a kid.’”
No longer on the third floor, the museum has been relocated to the south end of the first floor.
Work began in earnest to develop the facility that will be dedicated Nov. 3, after former Director Dr. Kurt Wise announced plans to leave the college this past spring. “My goal was to create an attractive display of what is in the museum,” Dr. Wood said. “I thought we shouldn’t have all this neat stuff tucked away beyond the reach of the community that so enjoyed it for so long.”
During the college’s fall break in October, Dr. Wood and several volunteers put in long days building displays and arranging exhibits.
Visitors to the museum will see an exhibit of African lions and other wildlife, skulls of a variety of animals, preserved reptiles, sea shells and a new item, a museum replica of the head of a Tyrannosaurus Rex dinosaur.
“It’s pretty impressive,” Dr. Wood said. “It’s a great little museum that will serve Rhea County and our students very well."