Martinsville, Virginia


Virginia Museum of Natural History announces campaign to design and create life-sized model of largest bird to ever fly

podiumThe Virginia Museum of Natural History has announced a $25,000 campaign to fund the creation of the first-ever, life-sized model of Pelagornis sandersi, an extinct species of bird that had the largest wingspan of any known bird to have ever flown.  The display will be the premier exhibit inside the Jean S. Adams Education Pavilion, a multi-season covered structure to be erected adjacent to the Martinsville-based museum near J. Frank Wilson Memorial Park.  The pavilion and its exhibits are scheduled to open to visitors in Spring 2020.


"The Jean S. Adams Education Pavilion marks the largest expansion of the current museum facility since it opened its doors in 2007," said Dr. Joe Keiper, executive director of the Virginia Museum of Natural History and project lead.  "Such a monumental addition demands equally impressive exhibit elements and being able to suspend a life-like recreation of the bird with the largest known wingspan from within the pavilion will be a unique spectacle for individual visitors and visiting school groups."


The museum is working in collaboration with Research Casting International, a world-renowned exhibit design firm based in Ontario, Canada, to design and build the model.


"The museum has had a long and successful history working with Research Casting International and we're thrilled to continue our relationship through this latest project," said Ryan Barber, deputy director of the museum.  "RCI played a major role in the design and development of many of our current permanent exhibits, as well as exhibits at other elite museums, such as the American Museum of Natural History in New York and the Field Museum in Chicago."


In addition to the life-sized model of Pelagornis sandersi, the Jean S. Adams Education Pavilion will include flexible-use outdoor seating and exhibit materials interpreting the natural features and ecology of Wilson Park.


"The pavilion will serve an important need, as the museum has grown leaps and bounds since it first opened its current facility in 2007 and additional space for visitors and school groups has become essential," said Barber.  "The flexibility of the space allows it to not only house additional exhibit experiences for visitors, but provides additional space to implement educational programs during school group visits and a relaxing seating environment for visitors who are wishing to take a break from touring the main exhibit galleries."


The museum is currently accepting gifts for the design and build of the Pelagornis sandersi display now through April 30.  The display will make its public debut during the unveiling of the Jean S. Adams Education Pavilion in Spring 2020.


"We're very excited to see this project move along at a fast pace and believe this is a project that our patrons and supporters will be excited to help us make a reality," said Barber.


Anyone interested in helping fund the project is encouraged to visit the museum's website at or contact the museum at 276-634-4163.


For more information regarding the museum and its exhibits, visit


About the Virginia Museum of Natural History 

The Virginia Museum of Natural History in Martinsville seeks to increase understanding of, and appreciation for, the natural history of the Commonwealth through education, research, collections, publications and exhibits. The museum – an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution – is accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, a distinction earned by fewer than 10 percent of museums in the United States. The museum is a member of the Association of Science-Technology Centers, Virginia Association of Museums, Heritage Preservation, and is an agency of the Secretary of Natural Resources for the Commonwealth of Virginia. The museum is open Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.,  From Memorial Day Weekend through Labor Day Weekend, the museum is open on Sundays from 1 to 5 p.m. The museum is closed all other Sundays, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year's Eve, and New Year’s Day. Admission is $7 for ages 19-59; $5 for children and youth ages 3-18, seniors 60+ and college students; members and children under 3 receive free admission. Visit to learn more.