About Education Collections

Education Collections Synthesis Project

The power of the authentic object is unsurpassed.  This is an educational tenant that is undeniable.  Education Collections has been a leader in the field for 20 years when it comes to putting real museum objects in DMNS visitor's hands.  It is now time to take this leadership to the next level.

In July of 2010 we received an Institute of Museum and Library Sciences Museums for America grant to understand our collections better.  We call it the Education Collections Synthesis Project.  For the last 20 years objects and specimens have been added to the collection on a more-or-less ad hoc basis. While all the additions to the collection have been done under the auspices of our Registrar and Curators, the actual content of the collections has largely gone unknown and unexplored, translation: we don't know much about what is in the Education Collections and what its full potential is.

 This project will bring together the Scientific Expertise of our Curators and the Educational Expertise of our Educators with the Experience of the Collections Staff to discuss the contents of the collection.  By improving the intellectual control and accessibility of the Education Collections and placing DMNS even further at the forefront of how to bring Hands-On Science to our many diverse audiences.

 As we move through the collections during this 24-month project, the Education Collections Department will be blogging and posting images on this site about some of the cool stuff we're finding in the collections as well as information we find out, so check back here often and stay up to date on this exciting process!

Monthly Collection Wazzit


What do YOU think this object or specimen is?  Check the Education Collections Blog at the end of the month for the answer!

Education Collections Staff

Rich Busch (Education Collections Manager)

I showed up here at the Museum to volunteer for the first time in June of 2000.  I had been at school for Geological Engineering in Socorro, New Mexico, before that I had been living in Miami, Florida.  While in Miami, I worked in the restoration of antique WWI and WWII aircraft at the now closed Weeks Air Museum.  I also spent a few weeks one summer in the Bahamas working with lemon sharks in an effort to establish a refuge in the Biminis.  After trying may hand a multiple majors in Socorro and building and racing a solar car from Washington D.C. to Orlando, Florida, I transferred to the Metropolitan State College of Denver where I majored in Anthropology and minored in Environmental Land Management.  It was then that I began volunteering at DMNS.  The area I volunteered in was the first ever iteration of the Discovery Zone, but after a few months, I switched to the Education Collections. In 2003, then Manager of the Education Collections, Jeff Stephenson (now the Zoology Collections Manager), hired me as his assistant manager.  I also entered grad school that year at the University of Denver, studying Anthropology with a focus on Archaeology.  My research was focused on a small hilltop archaeological site on the Peruvian North Coast.  Between 2004 and 2005 I ran a small excavation crew coupled with a field school associated with the California Institute for Peruvian Studies out of Berkley.  One evening in July of 2005, I got an email in a Lima internet café from Jeff Stephenson telling me that he had accepted the position of Zoology Collections Manager here at the Museum.  This put me on track to become the Education Collections Manager in 2006. In addition to my museum work, I tend to enjoy a random assortment of things.  I fence, and rock climb. I'm a home brewer studying to become a certified beer judge.  I make cheese and have a coonhound and a black lab. I backpack and car camp and have been known to attend renaissance fairs and highland festivals.  I play trumpet, french horn and piano and am currently learning to sew. As once was one of our mottos here at the then Denver Museum of Natural History, "So, Many Adventures in One Place".

Colleen Carter (Education Collections Assistant Manager)

I came to the museum in 2004 when Quest for Immortality was here at DMNS.  I was still in college and my mother-in-law said I should work in a place like this and that got me thinking...  I really wanted to be an Egyptologist, but with a family of my own to think of, going off to Egypt every field season wasn't very practical.  I began to think working with collections would be a great alternative path.  I was attending Metropolitan State College of Denver and in the process of writing my own degree.  So, I thought an internship would be a great way to test the waters in the museum field.  I interned under Jeff Stephenson in the summer of 2005.  I liked working here so much, I stayed on as a volunteer after my internship ended.  I managed to work education, non-profit administration and grant writing (along with history and anthropology, of course) classes into my degree program which, began the path towards a career in museums.  In January of 2007, I was hired as the Assistant Manager of the Education Collections.   I now work with collections from all the disciplines at the museum and with the educators who bring these collections to you!

Kimberly Accardy (Synthesis Technician)

My road to the museum started in Lincoln, Nebraska long before I knew the significance museums would have on my life. Morrill Hall museum or "Elephant Hall" with its large elephant and mammoth skeletons, endless diorama halls and planetarium always captured my imagination. So I gravitated towards an Anthropology degree at Colorado College, graduated and spent a couple of summers working as an archaeological aide. I reluctantly parted ways with Anthropology for several years while pursuing a temporary career at IBM, most recently as a Project Manager. Feeling like something was missing though, I began volunteering at the Denver Museum of Nature in Science in June 2000, in the Education Collections department. In 2003, I decided a life change was in order so I left IBM and since 2004, I have happily spent my summers working as a park ranger for the National Park Service, primarily at Mesa Verde National Park (yes, I do use my Anthropology degree!), and my winters volunteering in the museum's Education Collections department. This past year, I eagerly accepted a position in the DMNS Education Collections department and now enjoy endless diorama halls on a full-time basis. When I'm not entering data for our thousands of objects, you can find me outside where I'm often hiking, mountain biking or gardening.  

Becca Gates (Synthesis Technician)

Having always been interested in art, I started my education at the Rochester Institute of Technology, working towards a BFA in fine art photography. I quickly realized that I liked looking at other people's work much more than creating (or at least displaying) my own, so I decided to pursue a Master's degree in Art History and Museum Studies. While working towards that degree at the University of Denver, I volunteered at many Denver museums, including the DAM, the Museo de las Americas, Littleton Historical Society, Aurora History Museum, Colorado Historical Society, and, of course, DMNS. I started volunteering in Education Collections shortly after a class tour of the storage room  in 2010. I realized that while art will always be a passion, my real interest is in collections, what makes an object special enough to be valued and saved in a museum collection, and how these objects can be used to educate.  Add to that a penchant towards organization, and the Education Collection Synthesis Technician is a perfect job!

Collections Activities

Education Collections houses around 37,000 objects, making this one of the smaller collections at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science. However, while we might be smaller, we have one very unique attribute -- you get to touch our objects and specimens.  Ever touched a Great Blue Heron? A 120 million year old Triceratops horn? Well, here you can. The Museum believes in the power of the real, the power of the authentic  object so we have made a commitment to you, our audience, that upon visiting the museum, or participating in a museum program you will get to touch and explore for yourself authentic museum objects. What do you have to do to get to do this?  How do you get your hands on this awesome resource? Come to the Denver Museum of Nature & Science and sign up for one of our programs.

Upon entering the Museum, you will find with what we call Touch Carts scattered throughout the Museum - each and every Touch Cart has specimens from Education Collections on it.  These are facilitated by Museum Volunteers how will be able to tell you all about what is on the cart, answer any questions you may have about what is on the cart and point you to related areas within the Museum.  In 2010, 676,757 Museum visitors touched and interacted with our specimens on Touch Carts!

In addition, our On-Site and Off-Site Programs use Education Collections objects and specimens to teach classes on certain subjects.  Either, here at the Museum, or off-site at your school, we send collections every where we can.  Our expert teaching staff develop unique, informal science education programs that incorporate Education Collections at the very foundation of their programming.  In 2010, 123,622 children and chaperones used Education Collections in classes to explore the natural world!

We also bring out objects and specimens for special events like all the events for the Snowmastodon Project, programs called Scientists In Action broadcast to schools around the country allowing the students real time interaction with a scientist in the field, often thousands of Miles away.  Many times local schools will visit the museum for these broadcasts and Education Collections are brought out for those as well. For new members to the museum, New Members Night, is a great way to see behind the scenes of the Education Collections. Likewise for Educators, our Educator's Night is a great way to meet the collections staff and learn about unique resources we are proud to offer our local community of educators.

Finally, the most dynamic of our responsibilities that is ALWAYS changing is preparing Touch Carts for our Temporary Exhibits.  We work closely with our exhibit and Visitor Programs staff to develop and insert unique Touch Carts into every Temporary Exhibit.  These Touch Carts are themed toward one component or storey of the exhibit and incorporate a huge hands-on experience into their teaching point.

These are all ways that YOU can get to touch, interact and explore collections at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science.  So, stop by today or signup for one of our programs and check it out and get your Hands on Science!

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Welcome to the hands-on collection at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science.  These are authentic museum objects and part of the Museum's collections.  What makes this collection unique and special is that that we have promised our community that they can interact with this collection on personal level. We encourage people of all ages to explore and discover the natural sciences through real, tangible experiences with our collections.  Start your hands-on exploration of the world here on our website, stay up to date with our collections professionals on the Education Collections blog and then come Museum and interact with these collections in the exhibits!



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