Despite having several student employees and extensive displays, the BYU–Hawaii Museum of Natural History is often unheard of and overlooked by students.
Kristen Schlegel, a senior marine biology major from South Carolina and museum employee, said, “I don’t think it’s really advertised and there’s also a lot of people who get freaked out by taxidermized animals and all the different animals that seem real like they could attack or something. It’s really out of the way, most people don't come or stop around this part of campus.”
The Natural History Museum has displays and exhibits of wildlife from Hawaii, Alaska and North America. Also included in the museum are taxidermized animals including a polar bear, different breeds of wolf and samples of animal fur for visitors to touch.
Sun-woo Hwang, a sophomore communications major from South Korea, said, “I didn’t even know we had a museum on campus. I’ve never heard anything about it.”
Chelsea Medrano, a senior biology major from Oahu, Hawaii, shared her thoughts as to why not many students know about the museum. “I think because it’s tucked in a corner. When I was going through the new student orientation, it wasn’t even on the campus map. New students weren’t really being told anything about it.”
One way students can find out about the museum is through their classes, said Schlegel. “There are some professors who bring their classes here. One of the education professors brings her class here and we show them how we teach children about our exhibits. There are also a few biology classes that come in here for different assignments they have to do.”
Schlegel said the museum was founded to educate the general public. “Our main goal is to teach people about animals they wouldn’t normally see in Hawaii or the Pacific Islands. The habitats we have are mostly tundra (like Alaska, near the arctic circle), we have a Hawaiian exhibit and then a North American forest. These are all animals you’d see in the mainland and Europe but not in the southern part of the world because it’s too warm.”
According to Schlegel, school groups visit often and occasionally students and members of the public visit. “We have special tours that we do and we teach kids who live here about native Hawaiian birds and shorebirds that they will see around. It’s good knowledge for them to learn about native Hawaiian things.
“We get a few people from the community, kids who want to come with their parents and community members. There are also students who occasionally come in out of curiosity. We usually just let people look around, but if they want a special tour they can definitely ask the person working and that person will give them a tour.”
Medrano said of the museum, “I feel like it needs more attention because a lot of work has been put into the museum to make it operate.”
Writer: Will Krueger