INSIDE Chico State
0 November 7, 2002
Volume 33 Number 6
  A publication for the faculty, staff, administrators, and friends of California State University, Chico
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Natural History Museum Strikes Prop. 40 Gold

From left: Ray Barnett, Judy Sitton from the Natural History Museum Board of Directors, Governor Davis, President Manuel Esteban, board members Glen Toney and Jessee Allread, and Kim DuFour, development director for the College of Natural Sciences.

One happy board! Governor Gray Davis came to Chico on Oct. 21 to announce a $3 million bond allocation for the Natural History Museum. From left: Ray Barnett, Judy Sitton from the Natural History Museum Board of Directors, Governor Davis, President Manuel Esteban, board members Glen Toney and Jessee Allread, and Kim DuFour, development director for the College of Natural Sciences.

The museum drawing is shown for illustrative purposes only. Final plans will be decided at a later phase.

The museum drawing is shown for illustrative purposes only. Final plans will be decided at a later phase.

The Northern California Natural History Museum at CSU, Chico

After more than six years of planning and prospecting, the Northern California Natural History Museum (NCNHM) at CSU, Chico struck a rich vein of funding in Sacramento, with the announcement of a $3 million allocation of Proposition 40 funds for the proposed $9 million project.

"We had raised $3.2 million, including a $2 million land grant from the university," said museum executive director Ray Barnett, Biological Sciences. "Now, suddenly, we're more than two-thirds of the way toward our goal, with $6.2 million."

Governor Gray Davis and Secretary of Resources Mary Nichols announced the $3 million bond allocation for the proposed regional museum on an Oct. 21 campaign visit to Chico. Proposition 40 is the Clean Water, Clean Air, Safe Neighborhood Parks, and Coastal Protection Act passed in the March primary election -- the largest conservation bond measure ever approved.

Barnett attributes the funding to the hard work and professionalism of the museum's 23-member board, plus great support from CSU, Chico alumni, faculty, administration, and friends. Stanley Young, Nichols' communications officer, told Barnett that when the Proposition 40 funds became available, the museum was a top contender because "you had your ducks in a row and looked solid."

Those "ducks" included a bold vision, a professional and realistic business plan, an expert board of directors composed primarily of businesspeople and drawn from many parts of Northern California, and professional-caliber materials, including a prospectus, case statements, and a gift table of giving and naming opportunities.

Barnett devoted much of his spring 2002 semester to promoting the museum among state officials in Sacramento. He first introduced the project to Nichols, who responded with a letter of support, recognizing the value of public education that celebrates California's natural resources.

Armed with the support of the secretary of resources, Barnett mailed museum materials to key state senate and assembly members and followed up by phone. Accompanied by College of Natural Sciences Dean Jim Houpis and board members Jessee Allread and Dick Hilton, he made several day-long visits to Sacramento. They met with assembly members, policy officers, legislative aides, and chiefs of staff.

"All of this networking and promoting the project paid off when Proposition 40 funds became available," Barnett said. "This bond allocation has created a fund-raising momentum that promises to help us reach our goal in the near future." He said that alumni Gary and Judy Sitton, founders of SunGard Bi-Tech, a global software company located in Chico, immediately donated an additional $10,000 to the museum, bringing their total to $100,000 and earning them a naming opportunity.

"We are confident that, with this gesture of support from the state, we can reach our goal," said Barnett.

The proposed 15,000-square-foot museum is to be built on campus land adjacent to Bidwell Mansion State Historic Park. Its mission is to focus on the "exploration, celebration, and conservation of the plants, animals, geology, and natural heritage of our region and the world." It will feature state-of-the-art interactive exhibits, including "The Ages of North America," with dinosaurs and giant mammals; "The Worlds of California," with exhibits from The Coast, The Valley, The Foothills, and The Sierra Nevada; a hands-on science area; and traveling exhibits from major museums. Space will be provided for classes and meetings, refreshments, and play and rest areas. The museum will be open 364 days a year. Barnett hopes to see it open in fall 2004 or spring 2005.

An active educational program is planned, including tours for schoolchildren throughout Northern California; Web sites for use by schools and community members; workshops, lectures, and seminars by resident and visiting natural history experts; and summer education programs. "We want Northern California school kids to learn about their home and appreciate it," said Barnett.

Anyone interested in helping the museum raise its remaining $2.8 million may contact museum Major Gifts Director Jessee Allread at 530-894-2848.

Francine Gair

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