NU State Museum celebrates major gift, renovation of Discovery Center

Released on 06/23/2005, at 2:00 AM
Office of University Communications
University of Nebraska–Lincoln
Lincoln, Neb., June 23rd, 2005 —

The University of Nebraska State Museum on June 25 will showcase recent renovations made to its Discovery Center in Morrill Hall at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and thank the family whose support makes the project possible.

Unlike other areas of the museum, Discovery Center exhibits encourage visitors to touch and hold objects representing biodiversity. Often a favorite space for museum visitors, particularly children, this is the first major renovation of the area in more than 20 years.

The renovations are made possible with support from Betty Marx, a Lincoln native who now lives in Tampa, Fla., to the University of Nebraska Foundation. In recognition of her support, the museum announced it has named the room the Dr. Paul D. and Betty Marx Science Discovery Center.

Renovation of the center began last year and is now nearly 25 percent complete. The newest exhibit features a recreation of a fossil dig site from the Ashfall Fossil Beds State Historical Park in Nebraska. It will be unveiled at a private event June 25, and the public is invited to see the new exhibit and renovations made to date beginning June 26.

Kathy French, the museum's education coordinator, helped design and construct the new fossil bed exhibit. The Ashfall recreation allows visitors of all ages to learn about vertebrate paleontology and take on the role of paleontologist as they dig for fossils.

"When we talked to Betty Marx about renovation plans, we learned Dr. Marx was very interested in the topics of paleontology and anthropology," French said, "so we decided this was definitely one of the first exhibits we wanted to design and complete."

The timing of the support is important, said museum director Priscilla Grew, because the museum's funding from the state was cut in 2003 by 49 percent. As a result, the museum reduced its staff by 15 positions, and news about the budget cuts left many wondering if it was even open.

"The timing of this gift could not have been better," Grew said. "The fact that we can move forward on a major renovation project of great importance to the museum is a statement of faith in the museum and its future. We are extremely thankful to the Marx family."

The museum never did close its doors, and thanks to Mrs. Marx and other friends of the museum, it is improving.

The museum received the good news after Mrs. Marx asked the University of Nebraska Foundation for advice about a memorial to honor her late husband, Paul D. Marx, M.D. Of the options, support for the museum resonated most with her and her family.

"We thought this would be wonderful, because we appreciated the museum and have good memories of visiting it," said Mrs. Marx, who recalls they always made a point to take their out-of-town guests to Morrill Hall. "We decided this would be a nice way to memorialize my husband, who was born and raised in Lincoln, graduated from the university and established his medical practice in Lincoln."

Judy Diamond, professor and curator of informal science education, said modern research about how people learn and new information about biodiversity are being combined to create a more dynamic experience for visitors to the Marx Science Discovery Center.

"This room is very, very important to us," she said. "We feature items from all over the world and objects of tremendous significance. And this memorial from Betty Marx and her family now gives us this wonderful opportunity to enhance this area and better educate children and their families."

The museum began renovating the space during the spring of 2004, including design and construction of four modern educational display cases and new entryways into the center.

Support from the Marx family will also establish a permanent endowment to provide ongoing funding for future updates and maintenance of the center.

In the early 1970s, the Marx family and their friends created the Sari Gay Marx Memorial Book Fund as a memorial to Paul and Betty Marx's daughter, who died when she was 8 years old. The endowment is used by the McGoogan Library of Medicine at the University of Nebraska Medical Center to purchase books and other material in the field of pediatrics. The family added Dr. Paul Marx's name to the memorial after he died in 2001.

The University of Nebraska State Museum is a leading tourist attraction in Nebraska, and its collections include specimens from every county in the state. Organized in 1871, the museum houses more than 13 million objects and specimens, including those displayed in the world famous "Elephant Hall" and the Hall of Nebraska Wildlife. The main galleries and exhibits located in Morrill Hall have long been a favorite of families, school children and scholars from Nebraska and around the world.

The museum is open to the public Monday through Saturday, from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and on Sundays from 1:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Admission to the museum is $8 for families, $4 for individual adults and $2 for children, or free with a valid UNL ID or Friends of the State Museum membership. For more information, telephone (402) 472-2642 or visit the NU State Museum Web site (

The University of Nebraska Foundation is a nonprofit charitable organization supplementing support for students, faculty, facilities and programs at the University of Nebraska's four campuses through gifts from alumni, friends, corporations and other foundations since 1936.

CONTACTS: Robb Crouch, NU Foundation, (402) 472-0151 or 304-3085; and
Priscilla Grew, Director, NU State Museum, (402) 472-3779