Martinsville, Virginia


Adult Curator Camp at Virginia Museum of Natural History

Adult Curator Camp is Saturday, May 13 from 3 p.m. 6 to 9 p.m. at the museum

Adult Curator Camp is an exciting opportunity for adults (21 and older) to learn about VMNH while participating in fun, hands-on activities and programs. Go behind the scenes to see the museum's collections and experience what it's really like to work in the museum's scientific laboratories. Afterwards, you'll join the museum's scientists for a relaxed dinner and informal discussions about their latest discoveries. Learn how fossil replicas are made, investigate animal tracks, and be amazed at the beauty of insect wings when viewed under a microscope. Each camper will have the opportunity to paint a fossil replica to take home. A full list of available activities is below. After reserving your spot for Adult Curator Camp (only $50 for museum members and $60 for non-members), you will be contacted to register for the activities that most interest you.

New this year!
The museum is offering participants of this year's Adult Curator Camp the opportunity to go on a birding trip with the museum's Director of Research and Collections (and bird enthusiast), Dr. Jim Beard. The trip takes place from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. the day of the camp for a minimal $10 fee. Be sure to bring binoculars and comfortable shoes! You can add the birding trip to your cart when you register!
Registration deadline is May 1. Because of the nature of this event, space is limited. For additional information or to register via phone or email, please contact Krystal Davis at 276-634-4171 or

List of Activities

Life beneath Our Feet
Presented by Dr. Kal Ivanov
Assistant Curator of Recent Invertebrates

Where do most organisms live in forest ecosystems? Where is the greatest biodiversity? What is the powerhouse of ecological processes? To find the answers, just take a look under your feet. Soil isn’t just dirt. It is a complex environment that is home to a multitude of living organisms. While soil and leaf-litter layers may not generate the same amount of interest as other components of an ecosystem, they are critical for maintaining biological diversity and ecosystem health. These habitats are full of life. They provide food and shelter to a number of bacteria, protozoans, fungi, and animals – an amazing community of living creatures. The invertebrate leaf litter and soil fauna is so incredibly diverse, and occurs in such enormous numbers, that it is difficult to describe and should be experienced first-hand. This activity is designed to introduce you to the smallest creatures (the ones some consider the most important), the invertebrate animals that live in the leaf-litter beneath the forest trees.

Tricky Tracks
Presented by Dr. Nancy Moncrief
Curator of Mammalogy

In this activity, campers will investigate tracks of common mammals that live in Virginia’s forests and fields. They’ll learn that feet can tell us a lot about an animal’s behavior. Each camper will also make a field guide for identifying tracks of local mammals.

Table Tectonics
Presented by Dr. Jim Beard
Director of Research and Collections, Curator of Earth Sciences

In this activity, campers will create high mountains and deep oceans with their bare hands.

Foods from the Past
Presented by Dr. Elizabeth Moore
Curator of Archaeology

Participants will examine samples containing materials from Native American sites dating prior to European contact. These samples are being used to reconstruct prehistoric diets and environments and examine the impact of human predation on local animal populations. They will examine previously collected samples and learn how to differentiate a variety of materials including mammal, bird, shell, fish, wood, and seed remains.

Reproducing Fossils: Cast-Making for Paleontology
Presented by Dr. Alex Hastings
Assistant Curator of Paleontology

Participants will get hands-on experience with the work behind creating accurate copies of museum fossils. Casts of fossils are used throughout the world in exhibits, hands-on outreach events, and scientific research. Assistant Curator of Paleontology, Dr. Alex Hastings, will demonstrate how this time-honored process works. Each person will get to choose from a variety of VMNH fossil molds to make their very own cast of an original fossil, including teeth of dinosaurs, sharks, mastodons, and many more. Participants will also get to paint their casts to make them look like the originals, or decorate them any way they choose.

Museums and Microscopy
Presented by Dr. Joe Keiper
VMNH Executive Director

What waits under the lens of the microscope? Discover sights not seen with the eyes alone. Participants will experience how curators use microscopes to make new discoveries in the collections. They will use compound scopes and stereo scopes.