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UPLB Museum of Natural History launches virtual exhibits on 44th anniv

The University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) Museum of Natural History (MNH) launches four new exhibits to celebrate their 44th anniversary in the “new normal.”

Anchored on the theme of “Biodiversity in Focus, Nature in Spotlight during the Pandemic,” the museum’s first step in their leap into the digital, they were formally introduced in the first of their three-day celebration, which began with an opening program on September 28.

Museum director Dr. Juan Carlos Gonzalez introduced the new exhibits remotely through a virtual tour, accompanied by the natural history art of John James Audobon and Porfirio Castaneda with the photographs of National Geographic Photo Ark Founder Joel Sartore.

These new physical exhibits, which could also be experienced through the web-based environment artsteps.com, were built for the occasion. The webpage mentioned models actual exhibits through a realistic three-dimensional room complex that allows virtual art galleries in lifelike 3D spaces. 

Among these include the Photo Ark exhibit by Joel Sartore, the Audobon Exhibit that includes a gallery of hand-painted birds by American ornithologist John James Audobon, the Smilodon Exhibit spotlighting the California-based UPLB alumni group’s donated skull of the extinct saber-toothed tiger, and the Dr. Harold Conklin’s Book Exhibit, showcasing some of the American anthropologist and ethnobotanist’s books that the museum has received from Yale University.

Screengrab of the museum’s official Wikipedia page

This year also marked its launching of core-funded special projects such as the museum’s official Wikipedia page and the Zoological and Wildlife Specimens Image Bank. Both aim to improve public access to its collection and services and so that everyone can properly enjoy and explore museum collections during the pandemic. 

A live-stream of the museum’s opening of exhibits

‘A new level of virtual museum experience’ 

Since September 30, 1976, the museum was established by the University of the Philippines. It is known as a center for documentation, research, and information of more than 200,000 preserved biological and zoological specimens, wood samples; by-products of microorganisms, and also thousands of living plants/trees maintained in a separate location. The MNH takes pride in being the second largest collection of natural history specimens in the country. 

In his opening speech, UPLB’s Vice-Chancellor for Research and Extension, Dr. Rex B. Demafelis who has been supporting the museum throughout the years, said that museums play pivotal roles to educate others on natural sciences.

Screengrab from the Zoological and Wildlife Specimens Image Bank

“[Our natural history museums] serve as repositories of every living thing that has ever walked [on] Earth. Clearly, our natural history museums play a very important role not only in advancing the natural sciences but also in educating the public. It is one of the best avenues to engage and inform people about other life forms we share the planet with,” Demafelis said. 

The three-day celebration was also filled with a webinar series that tackled various aspects of the country’s biodiversity and the museum’s state under the pandemic. The webinars can be visited through their official YouTube channel, UPLB MNH. 

Among such topics included diseases found in a species of monkeys known as the macaque from curator  Prof. Judeline Dimalibot and biosafety in facing the pandemic from biosafety officer Dr. Marian De Leon. Medicinal plant curator Dr. Lourdes Cardenas also discussed on plant-based chemicals that might be used to curb the COVID-19 strain, while museum director Gonzalez spoke on diseases that can be carried by birds, and Prof. Phillip Alviola held a webinar on the museum’s research on bats. [P]

Photo from UPLB Natural Museum

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