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Geological museum aims to enter new era after vandalism

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Dale Gnidovec, museum collection manager and curator, peeks through a skull in the Orton Geological Museum. Credit: Ross Tamburro / Lantern reporter

Dale Gnidovec, museum collection manager and curator, peeks through a skull in the Orton Geological Museum. Credit: Ross Tamburro / Lantern reporter

Nearly four years after it was vandalized, the Orton Geological Museum is still seeking funding for a major renovation to bring its site into the 21st century.

The vandalism occurred in January 2012 when an intoxicated student broke into Orton Hall and destroyed several of the displays.

This prompted museum collection manager and curator Dale Gnidovec to think that it might be time for a change.

“We realized how much community support we had,” Gnidovec said. “We thought, ‘Now would be a good time to start thinking about renovating.’”

Bill Ausich, the geological museum’s director, also took notice of the community support that followed the vandalism.

“The next Monday morning, a 12-year-old girl came and gave us her savings to help renovate,” Ausich said. “That’s the level of emotional importance that the museum has.”

Gnidovec has a few grand plans in mind for what would be the museum’s first renovation since 1981, including new computer systems and new exhibits on plate tectonics, economic geology and hydrogeology.

“We’re also planning to put a dinosaur out in the front lobby (of Orton Hall), looking hungrily down at kids as they come in the door,” Gnidovec said. “And we want to take over that big stairway out there for a tower of time, so each step you take is five million years.”

Gnidovec’s plans are currently on hold, with the process moving slower than expected, he said.

“We were hoping this was going to be a good time to raise money with the oil and gas boom and everything, and that just hasn’t panned out,” Gnidovec said. “We were hoping to be able to start renovating and then that would get us funding for future renovations, but the university won’t let us start until we have the majority of it in hand.”

Even though the process of renovating the museum isn’t going exactly as planned, Gnidovec said he is confident that it will eventually happen.

The renovation is expected to cost about $1 million, Gnidovec said.

Ausich said the renovation will have an impact on student learning and engagement.

“Ohio State students from all over the campus use the museum, so upgrading and improving the facilities for our Ohio State students is one of the goals,” Ausich said. “I think that it would be more attractive to this generation of students if we could add a few computer-generated things.”

Ausich added the museum, which was founded in 1893 by Edward Orton Sr., OSU’s first president, has three primary functions: research, education and outreach.

“STEM education and earth sciences education are vitally needed,” Ausich said. “So, whatever we can do to promote understanding of science is a very worthy thing to do.”

If a full renovation does take place, Gnidovec said the museum would be closed for six months.

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