Dayton Daily News

Something new, old at Boonshoft Museum

Tracey Tomme, new Boonshoft Museum director, says she’s found her dream job.

- Meredith Moss On the Arts

We introduce you to CEO Tracey Tomme. And for the old, we treat you to a glimpse of the museum’s dinosaur exhibit.

There’s something old and something new at Dayton’s Boonshoft Museum of Discovery.

When we say old, we’re talking really old — 252 million years ago to 65 million years ago! Known as the Mesozoic or “Middle Life” era, it was a time when dinosaurs roamed our planet. You’ll meet some of them — including their actual remains — at the Boonshoft’s current “Dinosaur Discovery” exhibit. It’s a terrific introducti­on to dinosaurs for younger kids, and it’s chock-full of fascinatin­g informatio­n for older children and adults.

As for what’s new, it’s president and CEO Tracey Tomme, who took over the job in December. “Two big ways to excite young learners are ‘space’ and ‘dinosaurs’ and we’ve got those covered,” Tomme says.

Meet the dinosaurs

The current dinosaur exhibit, on loan from the Virginia Museum of Natural History, will be on display in the museum’s Main Hall through April. If you stop by on a weekend, you can watch the museum’s paleontolo­gist, Mackenzie English, work on a dinosaur bone he’s currently cleaning and repairing. You’re free to ask questions as he works.

“You get to be a kid,” says English about his choice of vocation. “It’s what most kids wanted to do when they grew up and I just never grew up.”

“How can we not be excited about dinosaurs?” asks Dawn Kirschner, the museum’s vice president of education who wasn’t surprised when 1,200 people showed up for the exhibit opening Jan. 26. “They spark interest across generation­s.” Initially, she says, we’re fascinated by the gigantic dinosaurs with their great large teeth, but once we begin to learn more about them, we become interested in other varieties as well. “More than 700 species have been discovered and we’re still discoverin­g new ones,” Kirschner says. “You really never know what’s under you,

wherever you go, including in the Miami Valley where Ice Age mammals once lived.”

This new exhibit is a great introducti­on to dinosaurs. You’ll learn when and how they lived and meet a variety of fascinatin­g dinosaur species. The displays you’ll see are a combinatio­n of fossilized bones and casts. (The “real” bones are the ones in cases.) The big news — and it’s BIG — is the 65-million-year-old skull of a large Hadrosaur. The skull now belongs to the museum, thanks to Pete Thaler, who donated it in honor of his children, Mason and Evan. Known as Anatotitan copei, this “duck reptile” was discovered in Butte County, South Dakota in 2001.

Among the other dinosaurs represente­d in the show are Tenontosau­rus, a plant-eating dino who was 20 feet in length, weighed two tons, and had a narrow head and a long tail. You’ll see a life-size Triceratop­s skull with a horn indicating this Trike survived an attack from a T. rex; the X-ray shows evidence of scar tissue and tooth marks that match no other known dinosaur from the same place and time. Next to the real Triceratop­s stands “Cera,” an animatroni­c Triceratop­s that begins to move when you push a button.

You’ll learn that close relatives of T. rex had feathers and that current speculatio­n is that T. Rex may have had feathers as well. Check out the toe and tooth of an allosaurus.

The second half of the exhibition is geared toward families with young children. It’s an activity maze that will answer lots of basic questions. Be sure and pick up a “passport” and help your kids fill in the blanks. They’ll stop at computer stations, learn to estimate how fast dinosaurs moved, don costumes and measure themselves against a Brachiosau­rus.

Other Boonshoft changes

If you haven’t been to the Boonshoft in a while, you’ll note a lot of changes. Renovation­s underway are part of a long-term plan to improve the museum from the infrastruc­ture out — plumbing, ventilatio­n in the labs, modern work spaces. At the moment, restrooms are being updated, as are the Do Lab and Science Theater.

Lego-lovers will be delighted to discover the new Strickly Briks area, created in 2018. The spacious room replaces the old activity station formerly located in a high traffic area that wasn’t so conducive to building. This new space, located neat the Tidal Pool, features extended platforms for constructi­ng and a large assortment of colorful bricks donated by the Strictly Briks company. There are also some nice places where the grownups can relax while still keeping an eye on the kids. The Briks are also available for sale in the museum gift shop.

Those who didn’t get the chance to see the Explorers exhibition that opened in the Main Exhibit Hall in January of 2018, will find it now located in the smaller Fraze Gallery. The show, which honored the 125th anniversar­y of the collection, is based on the five main areas of the world. Highlights include Nesiur, the museum’s mummy, as well as Egyptian artifacts including masks, canopic jars and mummified animals. There are also Japanese kimonos and musical instrument­s.

Meet Tracey Tomme

The museum’s new director has impressive credential­s. Most recently she was executive vice president and chief operations officer at the Cosmospher­e Internatio­nal Science Education Center and Space Museum in Hutchinson, Kansas. The Cosmospher­e houses more than 13,000 spacefligh­t artifacts, the largest combinatio­n of U.S. and Russian spacefligh­t artifacts in the world. Before that, she worked at the Challenger Learning Center in Colorado Springs.

We chatted with Tomme in her unusual domeshaped office, the museum’s former planetariu­m, where she’s surrounded by a seven-foot tall polar bear standing on hind legs, a large wooden ancestral figure from New Guinea, sparkling quartz and amethyst. Comfortabl­y ensconced behind her desk is a live specimen — Tomme’s 7-month-old Australian Shepherd, Abi, who regularly joins her at work.

What kind of child were you?

I was a quiet, shy kid who spent my days as close to my mother as possible, playing with my plastic farm animals while she quilted or crocheted. I was determined I would manage a horse ranch and potentiall­y never leave home. My parents divorced when I was around 8 years old and my mom worked two jobs to keep us going through some really lean times. She taught us that education was important. While at college I studied animal science and met my husband who was an Air Force pilot. I taught middle school science and we moved all around the U.S., England and Germany.

What attracted you to the job in Dayton?

My husband, Ed, had a very positive impression of Dayton based on many trips he had made here to give briefings or attend meetings. Once I came and visited, I realized how amazing it is. The city was very welcoming. I took a day to visit all three museum sites: The Boonshoft, Fort Ancient and Sun Watch and was impressed at the quality, cleanlines­s and collection­s. I love the abundance of learning activities for children and families. I told my husband it would be my dream job!

What are some of your museum’s challenges?

Almost all museums today are facing funding issues. The public finds the ticket price to be high, schools are taking fewer field trips, funders are cutting back, some of the big philanthro­pic companies have left towns; these are all common observatio­ns when trying to balance museum budgets. In reality our ticket price is so low that there is no way to balance the budget by simply bringing in more visitors. We, of course, want to continue to grow the number of visitors who come and benefit from our facilities.

I believe we are as lean as we can be without affecting the visitor experience. We have already cut staff, turned off lights, adjusted thermomete­rs and everything we can think of to save muchneeded dollars. Now what we have to do is find new, creative funding streams. Our current earned revenues are around 30 to 35 percent of our total budget. That leaves a big gap of money that has to be filled through donations, grants and endowment income.

My goal is to get up to 75 percent and build the endowment so we can have long term stability. We did that at the Cosmospher­e and I know with our talented staff it can happen here.

I will be diligently looking for donors who agree with our mission and value to the community and are willing to help support us toward this next more sustainabl­e phase.

 ?? CONTRIBUTE­D PHOTOS ?? Tracey Tomme is the new president and CEO of the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery.
CONTRIBUTE­D PHOTOS Tracey Tomme is the new president and CEO of the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery.
 ??  ?? A Tenontasau­rus was a plant-eating dinosaur about the size of a cow.
A Tenontasau­rus was a plant-eating dinosaur about the size of a cow.
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 ?? CONTRIBUTE­D/ KRISTY CREEL ?? Bella Burns of Kettering checks out the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery’s new dino exhibit.
CONTRIBUTE­D/ KRISTY CREEL Bella Burns of Kettering checks out the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery’s new dino exhibit.

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