Arts & CultureEvents

The Museum of Natural and Cultural History’s 2 p.m. Talks provide a personalized tour

The Museum of Natural and Cultural History (1680 E. 15th Ave.) sits on the fringe of campus. This University of Oregon treasure was officially created in 1935 and is a repository for fossils and artifacts from all around Oregon.

The museum’s affiliation with the university can be traced back to the late 1800s with Thomas Condon, one of the university’s first three professors and the owner of an extensive fossil collection known as the Condon Collection. The museum dedicates an exhibit to Condon’s university contributions and archeology work. Beyond Condon, museum administrators advocate for all things Oregon, dedicating several exhibits to the evolution of native animals that include the salmon, dog and horse. 

Tour visitors are taken through the spacious lobby. The lobby hosts the Mary Lee Ward Museum Store, which offers children’s books, stuffed animals and polished rocks as well as Oregon artists’ trinkets and ornaments.

A long hallway to the left of the bookstore features captivating nature photography, and the end of the hallway spits visitors into the museum. There are three different sections in the natural history half of the museum, all fairly small but packed full of fossils, replicates, paintings and exhibits on historical Oregon animals and climate change. 

The “Talks at the Museum” 2 p.m. lecture series, hosted Tuesdays through Sundays, began about a year ago. The talks are about an hour long, and visitors are welcome to stay afterward. A different staff member leads the talk every day, and each guide picks their own topic. If visitors are interested in a specific topic, they can call ahead and ask for a schedule of the week’s topics. 

While the guides are not trained university lecturers, many are passionate and enthusiastic about the museum’s contributions. The supplemental information provided during exhibit tours adds context for patrons who also want to explore on their own. Guides welcome questions and provide an informal tone to the tours.

If potential visitors can’t make the 2 p.m. lectures, they can still find another time to visit the museum. The museum is open from 11 p.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday, and staff are almost always available to give context to exhibits.

The cultural history section of the museum, entitled “Oregon — Where Past is Present,” is under reconstruction. The exhibit opens the weekend of Nov. 5 and 6 and promises “interactive technology, hands on experiences and world class collections.” Opening weekend admissions will be free and family membership prices will be cut in half.

Museum admission is free for students and active military members, $5 for the general public, $3 for youth between 3-18, $3 for seniors and $10 for families.

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Patience Greene

Patience Greene