ROCKFISH VALLEY FOUNDATION NATURAL HISTORY CENTER OPENING JUNE 16, 2012

Rockfish Valley Foundation Natural History Center becomes affiliate of the Virginia Museum of Natural History

Partnership to include shared exhibits, collaborative programs

MARTINSVILLE and NELLYSFORD, Va. (May 2, 2012) – The Rockfish Valley Foundation Natural History Center is now an affiliate of the Virginia Museum of Natural History (VMNH), providing both institutions with a variety of partnership benefits and collaborative opportunities. The Rockfish Valley Foundation Natural History Center is located in Nellysford, Nelson County, Virginia.

As the state museum of natural history for Virginia, VMNH serves all citizens of the Commonwealth through exhibits, education programs, scientific research and collections, and partnerships with other institutions. The VMNH affiliation program further advances the museum’s statewide mission.

“This agreement allows VMNH to reach audiences with our exhibits and programs much more efficiently,” said Dr. Joe B. Keiper, executive director of VMNH. “We can also bring to bear the state’s natural history collections to support the missions of both organizations.”

Officials with both VMNH and the Rockfish Valley Foundation (RVF) recently formalized the affiliation agreement that provides the Rockfish Valley Foundation and its Natural History Center with a variety of affiliate benefits, including loans of exhibits, discounts on traveling exhibits, collaboration opportunities for education programs, and free or discounted programs and lectures by VMNH curators and other staff members.

“We believe Nelson County is the right place for this program, with our abundant natural resources on the east side of the Blue Ridge and our rural cultural heritage,” said Peter Agelasto, president of the RVF.

The mission of the Rockfish Valley Foundation is to preserve the natural, historical, ecological and agricultural resources of the Rockfish Valley. The organization accomplishes this through enriching the lives of the communities served by supporting the Rockfish Valley Loop Trail system, Spruce Creek Park and the lands associated with them. The RVF supports conservation, recreation, preservation and environmental education and promotes a rural tourism experience in the Rockfish Valley of Nelson County, Virginia.

“The RVF also sponsors the Nelson Scenic Loop, the Natural History Center, and a number of community events including a kite festival, stargazing nights, and others,” Agelasto said. “We want the community to understand the natural world and be able to make their own decisions as to how they interrelate with natural resources.”

The Rockfish Valley Foundation’s Natural History Center was formerly home to the Spruce Creek Gallery and is a state and national registered historic landmark. It was built in 1903 by the Harris Family as a general store, survived the flood resulting from Hurricane Camille in 1969 and served as the first sales center for the Wintergreen Resort. As the Natural History Center, it will host exhibits enhanced by cutting-edge technology, allowing Nelson County audiences to interact with VMNH curators and staff in Martinsville. The RVF hopes to host two exhibits per year at the Natural History Center.

“VMNH programs at the Rockfish Valley Foundation Natural History Center provide a perfect place for residents of central Virginia to participate in the exhibits of the museum, The Center will also provide a resource to teachers, parents, and young scientists,” said Ann Mallek, central virginia education coordinator at VMNH. “Another home base for our outreach programs, and another chance to recruit more teachers and participants, will be a boost to our success.”

As part of the grand opening of the new RVF Natural History Center on June 16, 2012, VMNH staff will be installing elements of the recent “Living off the Land” exhibit at the center in the coming weeks. The “Living off the Land” exhibit was on display at VMNH from June 4, 2011 to February 25, 2012.

The exhibit will include an array of taxidermied native wildlife, including black bear, wild turkey, squirrel, possum and others. Other displays will give young visitors the chance to experience animal pelts, insects, rocks, and other artifacts.

“There will also be a dugout canoe set in front of the animals; it’s a great photo op to have your child’s picture taken in the canoe,” Agelasto said.

The RVF was founded in 2005 and dedicated its first birding trail through the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries in September 2006. Since that time, the scope of the foundation and its support from the community have grown significantly. In May 2011, it established its headquarters at the Wintergreen Country Store, which will now also house the Natural History Center.

“Nelson County is indeed fortunate to have the engagement of so many of its residents who care about our culture, arts, history and natural resources,” said Connie Brennan, central district member of the Nelson County Board of Supervisors. “The establishment of the Rockfish Valley Foundation Natural History Center is another jewel in our crown, and will contribute much to our community’s and our visitors’ appreciation of this precious and special part of Virginia.”

The Virginia Museum of Natural History became a state agency in 1988, and opened a new state-of-the-art facility in 2007. The museum is recognized as one of the nation’s leading museums in its field, with award-winning permanent and temporary exhibits, active scientific research and collections programs in a variety of disciplines, and educational programs offered both at the museum and though outreach programs statewide. The museum is accredited by the American Association of Museums, a distinction earned by fewer than 5% of museums in the United States.

“This affiliation agreement provides numerous opportunities for collaboration by the two institutions,” said Dr. J. James Murray, a member of the VMNH Board of Trustees. “We look forward to working with staff and board members at the Rockfish Valley Foundation on a variety of future projects.”

For more information about the Rockfish Valley Foundation, visit www.rockfishvalley.org or www.nelsonscenicloop.com. For more information about the Virginia Museum of Natural History, visit www.vmnh.net.

###

About the Virginia Museum of Natural History
The Virginia Museum of Natural History in Martinsville seeks to increase understanding of and appreciation for the natural history of the Commonwealth through education, research, collections, publications and exhibits. The museum – an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution – is accredited by the American Association of Museums, a distinction earned by fewer than 10 percent of museums in the United States. The museum is a member of the Association of Science-Technology Centers, Virginia Association of Museums, Heritage Preservation, and is an agency of the Secretary of Natural Resources for the Commonwealth of Virginia. The museum is open Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and is closed on Sundays, as well as Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day. Admission through January 2 is $5 for adults; $4 for senior citizens and college students; $3 for children and youth 3-18; members and children under 3 receive free admission. For more information about membership or volunteer opportunities, please call 276-634-4141 or visit www.vmnh.net.

About the Rockfish Valley Foundation

The mission of the Rockfish Valley Foundation is to work cooperatively with the Rockfish Valley community and others to demonstrate and promote agricultural and non-agricultural land uses and activities that conserve, protect and sustain the natural, cultural and historic resources of the Rockfish Valley for the enjoyment and enrichment of residents and visitors. The RVF seeks to preserve the natural, historical, ecological and agricultural resources of the Rockfish Valley. This is accomplished this through enriching the community by supporting the Rockfish Valley Loop Trail system, Spruce Creek Park and the lands associated with them, the Nelson Scenic Loop, and the Natural History Center. The mission furthers supports conservation, recreation, preservation and environmental education and promotes a rural tourism experience in the Rockfish Valley of Nelson County, Virginia. The Rockfish Valley Foundation aims to inspire a healthy lifestyle by offering hiking trails, campsites, programs and events. The lands serves as an outdoor laboratory for students, the community and visitors alike. The Rockfish Valley Foundation is a public foundation recognized under Internal Revenue Code section 501c3 and as such is permitted to receive donations. A copy of the 501(c)3 is available upon request. For more information please call 434-361-1296 or visit www.rockfishvalley.org.