In a White House ceremony scheduled for Thursday, May 8, the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History at the University of Oklahoma will be awarded the nation’s highest honor conferred on museums and libraries for service to the community. The Institute for Museum and Library Services is honoring only five museums and five libraries nationwide with the 2014 National Medal for Museum and Library Service.
Medalists are chosen because of their significant and exceptional contributions to their communities from nationwide nominations of institutions that demonstrate innovative approaches to public service, exceeding the expected levels of community outreach.
“This prestigious national award confirms that our museum is one of the most important university-based natural history museums in our nation and indeed, in the world,” said OU President David L. Boren. “As Oklahomans, we are privileged to have it in our state.”
The Sam Noble Museum was founded in 1899 by the Territorial Legislature of the future state of Oklahoma and located on the OU campus. In 1987, the museum was designated as the state’s natural history museum and in May 2000, opened its doors to a new 198,000-square-foot facility, welcoming 2.1 million visitors since that time. The museum houses more than 10 million objects organized into 12 collections from Native American Languages to Genomic Resources.
Its 55,000-square-feet of exhibits and galleries trace Oklahoma’s history back more than a billion years and almost all the objects and specimens that illustrate this rich history are from Oklahoma. Educational programs such as Meet the Dinosaurs, Web of Life and ExplorOlogy inspire thousands of students on field trips each year. The museum’s long history of public programs includes annual community events such as Science In Action/Object ID Day, Spring Break Escape, Eggstravaganza, Holiday Happening, and the annual Oklahoma Native American Youth Language Fair. Beginning in 2008, the museum launched Free First Mondays and, in 2010, became a participant in the Blue Star Museum Program to offer free admission to military personnel and their families.
“The Sam Noble Museum is proud to be selected for this national honor. We share this award with the people of Oklahoma who made this museum and its programs possible and who continue to support us in every way,” said Michael Mares, museum director.
A teaching and research unit of the University, the Sam Noble Museum is committed to standards of professional excellence set forth by the American Alliance of Museums.
“We are very proud to announce Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History as a 2014 National Medal winner,” said Susan Hildreth, director of the Institute of Museum and Library Services. “This year’s National Medal honorees illustrate the many ways museums and libraries can excite lifelong learning and civic engagement,” said Hildreth, noting that museums and libraries serve as civic gathering places, bringing together individuals in pursuit of educational resources, community connections, skills development, and multifaceted lifelong learning.
She also said that this year’s medalists exemplify the nation’s great diversity of libraries and museums and include an aquarium, conservatory and botanical gardens, a university library, public libraries, children’s museums, art museums, science centers, and more, hailing from across the country.