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Smithsonian forges partnership with Rice Museum

County attraction has extensive collection of rocks, minerals


PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: DAVID PLECHL - Rice Northwest Museum of Rocks & Minerals is very popular with youngsters from area schools. Early this week, Rice Museum became an affiliate of the prestigious Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. The prestigious Washington, D.C.-based Smithsonian Institution has made Rice Northwest Museum of Rocks & Minerals, which is located in Hillsboro just north of Highway 26, a Smithsonian affiliate.

The collaboration, announced April 20, is expected to boost the visibility of the Hillsboro museum, drawing more visitors and smoothing the way for the two entities to cooperate on exhibits.

Rice Museum officials were delighted to report the new affiliation, which has been in process for nearly a year.

“It takes a while to pull all the application materials together, and a lot of documents are needed to meet their approval,” said Julian Gray, executive director of Rice Museum. “This is going to enhance our programs and exhibits. Within six months to a year, we’ll be bringing in exhibits from them. The next step is to start planning those exhibits.”

Harold Closer, director of the Smithsonian Affiliations program, noted that Rice Museum’s collection of rocks and minerals is considered among the best in the world. PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP PHOTOS: DAVID PLECHL - The Rice Museums extensive collection of various rocks and minerals is considered world-class. Here, fourth-graders peer into cases with petrified wood and ancient pine cones that have become glass-like over millions of years.

“The museum has a well-deserved reputation for engaging generations in earth sciences through its scholarship, exhibitions and education programs,” Closter said. “Our partnership offers the opportunity to underscore the importance of science as a source of inspiration in our daily lives and in the years ahead.”

Smithsonian Affiliations is a national outreach program that develops partnerships with museums, educational and cultural organizations to enrich communities with Smithsonian resources.

The new partnership between Rice and the Smithsonian will bring specimens and exhibits from the Smithsonian; provide opportunities to work with scientists on research projects and exhibitions; and sponsor a series of educational lectures and programs.

“It’s a very big deal in the industry,” said Diane Dennis, spokeswoman for Rice Museum. “It’s more visibility and will attract more visitors.”

“It’s a big feather in the whole community’s cap,” Gray added. “To be affiliated with the Smithsonian says a lot for the community support we’ve enjoyed for decades, and being rewarded with this prestigious affiliation brings awareness of our museum to a broader area and will bring more tourism into the area.”

Rice Museum, which opened to the public in 1996, houses an extensive, world-class collection of rocks and minerals recognized as the finest in the Pacific Northwest and one of the best in the nation.

Its programs include organized school field trips, as well as ongoing educational outreach throughout the community.

The 9,000 square foot structure housing the museum is listed on the National Registry for Historic Homes due to its unique architectural style and the use of natural stone as well as native Oregon woodwork throughout. This shiny rock specimen is one of hundreds on display at Hillsboros Rice Museum. With the new affiliation with the Smithsonian Institution, even more exhibits will soon be brought in for enthusiasts to enjoy.

The house, which was constructed in 1953, was designed by Portland architect William Wayman.

Rice Northwest Museum of Rocks & Minerals is located at 26385 N.W. Groveland Drive. For more information about the museum, call 503-647-2418.

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