First Lady Michelle Obama joined Institute of Museum and Library Services Director Susan H. Hildreth yesterday to present the 2014 National Medal for Museum and Library Service to Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History.
In its 20th anniversary year, the National Medal is the nation’s highest honor given to museums and libraries for service to the community. Michael Mares, Director of Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History, and community member Ernesto Vargas accepted.
If there was anything that Ernesto Vargas knew at age sixteen, it was that he was passionate about science. In pursuing his interest, Ernesto signed up for the ExplorOlogy program at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History, Paleo Expedition, which was an excursion that explored different areas of Oklahoma and Nebraska with scientists to study the science of geology, paleontology and wildlife ecology.
Surrounded by people who shared his desire to explore, Ernesto dove into science and at the same time, became more connected to the community. He began volunteering as a docent at the museum, leading visitors through the Hall of Ancient Life and answering their questions about paleontology and geology. The following year, he joined the Paleo Expedition trip as a peer mentor. His hard work and service at the museum contributed to his selection as a Gates Millennium Scholar. He is now pursuing his career in science as a student at the University of Chicago, majoring in geology and paleontology. He says, “As a future scientist, I look forward to one day sharing my knowledge and experience with others, just like the Sam Noble Museum and ExplorOlogy program have done for me.”
This year’s ten honorees exemplify the nation’s great diversity of libraries and museums and include a natural history museum, a children’s museum, a natural sciences museum, an aquarium, a botanic garden, public library systems, and a book center, hailing from ten states.
“Museums and libraries serve as anchors and provide invaluable experiences, resources and opportunities for members of their communities. Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History inspires visitors to better understand the world through collection-based research, interpretation, and education,” said Susan H. Hildreth, director of the Institute of Museum and Library Services. “We are very proud to name Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History as one of this year’s National Medal for Museum and Library Service winners.”
The First Lady presented the National Medal to the museum and library directors, as well as to community members from each institution, to recognize the extraordinary contributions they have made on their communities.
“Many congratulations to the fine team at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History for this incredible achievement. This accomplishment would not be possible without the dedicated work of numerous individuals who laid the groundwork and the commitment of those who continue to carry out the museum’s educational vision. Our communities are better because of the learning outlet provided by the museum, and our state couldn’t be prouder.”—U.S. Rep. Tom Cole (OK)
Selected from nationwide nominations, medal winning museums and libraries demonstrated innovative approaches to public service, exceeding the expected levels of community outreach. Later this year, StoryCorps – a national nonprofit dedicated to recording, preserving, and sharing the stories of Americans – will visit each winning institution to document stories from their communities. The next deadline for nominating a museum or library is October 15, 2014. Learn more about the National Medal at www.imls.gov/medals.
The Sam Noble Museum is located on the University of Oklahoma Norman campus at 2401 Chautauqua Avenue. Our mission is to inspire minds to understand the world through collection-based research, interpretation, and education. To learn more, visit www.SamNobleMuseum.org.
First Photo: First Lady Michelle Obama presents Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History with National Medal for Museum and Library Service at White House Event Institute of Museum and Library Services Ceremony Honors 10 Exceptional Museums and Libraries.