New museum to open soon

A new museum opening on the Oregon Coast is expected to make a splash.
Mainly focusing on marine life, it is being managed by the Oregon Institute of Marine Biology (OIMB). The museum was entirely funded by donations and grants provided by the community.

OIMB has been set to open the museum for years, but according to science teacher Scott Stockert, when the economy crashed in the Bay Area about four years ago, it was pushed to the side due to a lack of funding.

“I think it’s going to be a great addition [to our community],” Stockert said. “It still has a lot that needs to be figured out like the logistics and hours, but I’m excited for it to open.”

After seven years of research, collecting funds and placing exhibits, OIMB professors are hoping to open the museum in the spring of 2015. The museum is located in Charleston, directly across from the OIMB. Museum director Craig Young said the exhibits mainly focus on plants and animals living in the bays, oceans and rivers around the Oregon coast. The museum is set to have five galleries that will be updated periodically.

“The five galleries we have right now are on fisheries, local ecosystems, marine mammals, animal life in the oceans and the underwater parts of Oregon,” Young said.

The exhibits are in separated gallery rooms spread across two stories of the building and all have intricate parts and details, many with activities to go along with them.

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife salmon tank in the viewing gallery connects directly to the bay by a fish ladder letting wild salmon be displayed. The Native American Association has provided an exhibit featuring authentic fishing tools. One exhibit that has caught the attention of Stockert is touch tanks. These are interactive exhibits where visitors can get up close to the live animals to see, and in some cases, touch the animals.  Stockert said he is most excited about this exhibit.

“When Dr. Young talked me through it, he told me about the touch tanks,” Stockert said. “I don’t know if there will be sea stars, because they are beginning to be endangered, but there’s going to be things like urchins and sea cucumbers for students to see and interact with.”

Stockert said he believes the museum is going to bring tourists to the Oregon Coast.

“Certainly I wish we had an aquarium, but it’s something,” Stockert said. “It will put OIMB on the map and bring attention to this area.”

One gallery is dedicated specifically to marine mammals. Here, two whale skeletons have been hung from the rafters. The first is a 28-foot juvenile grey whale and the second is a 22-foot killer whale that washed up on a beach in Bandon and was preserved for the museum’s use. Other exhibits include a stuffed sea otter and skeleton, porpoise skeletons and a viewing area where footage will be shown from the remote-operated vehicle used to explore the floor of the bay.

According to Stockert, many of the teachers in the coastal community already have plans to take their students to visit the museum.

Stockert said he hopes it is open when he takes his oceanography students out to OIMB this June.

“I’m hoping it will make it easier to show the students real ocean animals,” Stockert said.