Harvard Museums of Science & Culture Awarded $150,000 Grant by the Institute of Museum and Library Services

September 18, 2014

(Cambridge, MA) Today, the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) awarded $150,000 to the Harvard Museums of Science & Culture (HMSC). The museums will use the grant funds to create an innovative learning experience entitled What’s in a Name? Species, Naming and the Scientific Process to educate and engage the public in the scientific process of systematics, species identification and naming. The project is a partnership between HMSC, the Encyclopedia of Life (eol.org), and the Biodiversity Heritage Library (biodiversitylibrary.org) as represented by the Ernst Mayr Library of the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard.

The What’s in a Name? project addresses the threefold challenge of enhancing public understanding of biodiversity, improving scientific literacy, and creating public awareness of digitized museum and library collections. Over a two-year period, the project will involve development of detailed species “stories” that show how scientists identify and name species and how those names are the product of scientific research and the progression of knowledge over time. The project will create opportunities for the public to extend the hands-on and visual learning in the museum to interactive involvement at four learning stations within the exhibit galleries of the Harvard Museum of Natural History, and in online applications, which can be explored remotely. The project will take advantage of new tools and technologies to give museum visitors and virtual audiences alike ongoing learning experiences, and promote further discoveries.

The HMSC’s Harvard Museum of Natural History has more than 220,000 visitors each year including nearly 35,000 K-12  students who will have the opportunity to interact with the new project learning stations to be available by August 2015.  In addition, the project will reach online audiences through the nearly 3.5 million people from 235 countries who visit the Encyclopedia of Life site each year. The project aims to increase awareness of opportunities for people to conduct their own online investigations of biodiversity using resources including an e-book to be available for tablets, Encyclopedia of Life collections, and the Biodiversity Heritage Library. “Our grants are highly competitive. The Institute of Museum and Library Services enlists hundreds of library and museum 
professionals throughout the United States to review grant applications and make recommendations on projects most  worthy of funding,” said IMLS Director Susan H. Hildreth. “Receiving a grant from IMLS is significant achievement, and we  congratulate the Harvard Museums of Science & Culture for being among the 2014 IMLS museum grantees.” 

The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s 123,000 libraries and 35,000 museums. Our mission is to inspire libraries and museums to advance innovation, lifelong learning, and cultural and civic engagement. Our grant making, policy development, and research help libraries and museums deliver valuable services that make it possible for communities and individuals to thrive. To learn more, visit www.imls.gov and follow us on Facebook and Twitter. IMLS museum grants support a wide variety of projects that create learning experiences, strengthen community communities, care for collections and provide broad public access. 

Jane Pickering, HMSC Executive Director and Principal Investigator for the project says, “Countless visitors wonder how are species discovered? They see the huge dinosaur skull and ask “How did the Triceratops get its name? What’s the story behind why a new genus of fern is called “Gaga” or a cockroach wasp is named “Ampulex dementor”? We’re grateful to the IMLS for supporting this project and we’re thrilled to be partnering with EOL and the Biodiversity Heritage Library to enable the public to do their own explorations of how scientists study the incredible biodiversity of our planet.” 

A complete list of museum recipients is available on the IMLS website at: www.imls.gov/news/2014_all_oms_grants_list.aspx. For information about IMLS museum grant programs, see: www.imls.gov/applicants/available_grants.aspx.

About the Institute of Museum and Library Services

The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s 123,000 libraries and 35,000 museums. Our mission is to inspire libraries and museums to advance innovation, lifelong learning, and cultural and civic engagement. Our grant making, policy development, and research help libraries and museums deliver valuable services that make it possible for communities and individuals to thrive. To learn more, visit www.imls.gov and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

About the Harvard Museums of Science & Culture

The Harvard Museums of Science & Culture (HMSC) is a consortium of Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences museums.  HMSC comprises the Harvard Museum of Natural History, the Peabody Museum of Archaeology & Ethnology, the Harvard Semitic Museum, and the Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments. HMSC’s mission is to foster curiosity and a spirit of discovery in visitors of all ages, enhancing public understanding of and appreciation for the natural world, science and human cultures. 

About the Encyclopedia of Life (EOL)

The EOL Learning + Education Group, based at Harvard’s Museum of Comparative Zoology, works with partner organizations to create or foster the development of educational tools and materials that encourage collaboration, participation, and in-depth exploration about biodiversity by learners worldwide. To find out more about its mission, visit eol.org. For more ideas about how to use EOL in education, visit eol.org/discover.

About the Biodiversity Heritage Library

The BHL is an international consortium of the world’s leading natural history libraries that have collaborated to digitize the public domain literature documenting the world’s biological diversity, resulting in the single, largest, open-licensed source of biodiversity literature. In partnership with the Internet Archive and through local digitization efforts, the BHL has digitized millions of pages of taxonomic literature, representing tens of thousands of titles and over 100,000 volumes. The 
Ernst Mayr Library at the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard is a founding member of the Biodiversity Heritage Library. 

MEDIA CONTACT: 
Blue Magruder, Harvard Museums of Science & Culture, 617-496-0049, bluemagruder@hmsc.harvard.edu.

See also: Press Release