An Important Message Regarding the Future of Fernbank Museum

Dear Friends of Fernbank Museum:

I’m writing in hopes of clearing up questions you might have around Fernbank Museum in light of recent media reports. As many of you are aware, the DeKalb County School System has been working through its budget, which has included discussion of Fernbank Science Center. Because there is often confusion over the name “Fernbank,” I want to take this opportunity to assure you that Fernbank Museum of Natural History is not associated with these news reports.

As a privately funded non-profit organization, Fernbank Museum of Natural History is doing well programmatically and financially. In fact, 2012 marks Fernbank Museum’s 20th anniversary! This special year offers an important milestone for the Museum as we begin an extensive planning process for the future of our entire campus and the majestic Fernbank Forest. We launched our 20th anniversary year with the momentum of a strong 2011, which saw the opening of our award-winning children’s exhibition, Fernbank NatureQuest, and tremendous growth in our family and student visitation from around the state.

As always, we thank our many visitors, members, donors and other supporters for helping Fernbank Museum inspire life-long learning of natural history through immersive programming and unmatched experiences that encourage a greater appreciation of our planet and its inhabitants.

I hope to see you at the Museum soon as we offer many exciting new special activities, programs, exhibitions and films in 2012!

Susan Neugent
President & CEO

Did You Know?

  • In 2011, Fernbank Museum saw a 24% increase in general attendance, a 21% increase in school visitation and a 46% increase in membership. Donations from generous funders provided field trip admissions to over 55,000 students for free or deeply discounted rates.
  • Fernbank Museum earns 90% of its annual income through admissions-related revenue and special events. As a private non-profit organization, all earned income is reinvested in exhibitions, films, educational programs, conservation and research.
  • Fernbank NatureQuest, the Museum’s newest permanent exhibit, has won 3 awards for excellence in design — 2 of which are internationally recognized.
  • This year, as part of our 20th Anniversary, Fernbank Museum is holding special programming days on 20 weekends throughout the year.
  • In 2012 Fernbank Museum will continue conducting original archaeological field research which has already yielded scores of artifacts that can be traced to the early Spanish expedition of Hernando de Soto in 1540. Fernbank’s exciting discoveries have received international attention and garnered the support of the National Geographic Society.
  • Fernbank Museum’s financial, operational and programmatic practices are monitored by the third party non-profit evaluator, Charity Navigator, and have achieved the highest possible ranking in their rating system.

For more information about Fernbank Museum, please visit us online.

June 4, 2012 at 5:32 pm Leave a comment

A Day in the Life

A unique look at what it’s like to be a public relations professional at natural history museum.

Almost as often as I see jaws drop as visitors encounter the world’s largest dinosaurs at Fernbank, I witness a similar reaction when they learn I’ve been working here almost 15 years. I like to pretend it’s because I look young for my age, but the reality is that many people don’t stay committed to a job so long any more. Yet at Fernbank, the time has flown by because I am constantly learning new things, experiencing incredible exhibitions, understanding the world around me, interacting with educators and visitors, and meeting some of the most incredible people in the world.

Over the years, I’ve spent time with many of the fascinating stars and directors of IMAX films while accompanying them on media interviews, including David Breashears of Everest, Dr. Jane Goodall of Jane Goodall’s Wild Chimpanzees, Robert Lacey of Arabia, Tim Liversedge of Roar: Lions of the Kalahari, and Dr. Josh Wurman and Sean Casey of Tornado Alley.

Just this week I was lucky enough to spend some time at CNN International with Dr. Biruté Mary Galdikas, the world-renowned primatologist and orangutan authority whose rescue efforts are featured in the IMAX® film Born to be Wild. She is an incredible woman on so many levels. A true pioneer, she moved to live in the jungle wilderness of Borneo more than four decades ago after successfully persuading Dr. Louis Leakey to back her research. At the time she said there were no telephones, no electricity, no roads, and no connection to the outside world other than a plane that arrived once a week (and sometimes once every other week).

Since then, she’s successfully rescued and rehabilitated orphaned orangutans while working hard to protect their habitat. She says palm oil production is a big culprit of the diminishing habitats of orangutans there. I decided right then and there to try to avoid foods containing palm oil when I can. I was amazed that I could already be inspired to take action by being in her presence for only a few minutes. In an interesting turn of events, as I was sitting across from her, captivated by her work, her accomplishments and what it must be like to live so closely with nature, she asked me a question.

“Where is the most exotic place you’ve traveled?”

I knew my answer would never come close to her fascinating experiences, but she was truly curious. I told her Costa Rica, and was taken aback when she said she’d never been! But later, as I thought more about the question, I realized that I’ve traveled to the depths of the sea, the top of the world, into space, alongside wild animals, on African safaris and so much more through the amazing experience of IMAX films.

—Brandi Berry, Director of Public Relations

Here’s a clip of her appearance on CNN International.

March 28, 2012 at 8:41 pm 1 comment

Bon Voyage, Friend

Yesterday was a bittersweet day at Fernbank Museum as we said goodbye to one of our longtime Polaris volunteers, Furney Hemingway, who is moving to Florida.

Furney joined the Polaris volunteer guild in 1996. Since then he’s donated time, treasure and talent to the Museum. During his tenure, Furney contributed 3,200 volunteer hours supporting A Walk Through Time in Georgia where he greeted visitors, gave overviews of the exhibition and taught about the rocks and fossils on display at the desk. He even contributed a post to this blog. But it was his interest in archaeology that led Furney to participating in the Museum’s field research program located in South GeorgiaThe Santa Isabel de Utinahica Project.

At a small goodbye gathering, Susan Neugent, Fernbank President and CEO, joked that the Museum would “retire [his] jersey.” All joking aside, it is obvious that Furney will be missed; by staff, other volunteers and guests alike.

If you’d like to learn more about becoming a Polaris volunteer, visit us online or contact us at

—Deanna Smith, Director of Marketing

February 23, 2012 at 2:11 pm Leave a comment

A Year of Adventure at Fernbank Museum

As we put the finishing touches on our eye patches and faux jeweled crowns for our first Pirate & Princess Weekend of 2012, we thought it’d be the perfect time to share a few other upcoming events with you. So grab those calendars and pencil us in for a stunning line-up of events in 2012.

And, these are not all!

We are still working on adding more events to the schedule, so be sure to sign up for our e-news and “like” us on Facebook to stay in touch.

Dinosaur Egg Hunt
Saturday, April 7
Fernbank’s Dinosaur Egg Hunt is returning with expanded egg hunt times, additional giveaways, games, and more. Presented in partnership with Radio Disney.

Scoop on Poop
Opening Day Celebration
Saturday, May 26
Join us for a celebration of Fernbank’s special exhibition Scoop on Poop. This fun and fascinating exhibition illustrates what we can learn about an animal by what it leaves behind.

97 Days of Play
May 29 – September 2
We’ve got the cure for the summertime blues! Join us for a summer-long celebration of great activities, events and ways to keep families entertained and inspired while school’s out.

Superhero Day
Sunday, June 17
Come dressed as your favorite superhero and enjoy a day of games, hands-on activities and more.

Reptile Day

Saturday, July 28
Get up-close and personal with a variety of live reptiles. Don’t miss this opportunity interact with and learn more about these unique and ecologically-important creatures.

Dinosaur Birthday Bash
Saturday, August 25
You’re invited for a day of dinosaur-themed activities including a giant-sized birthday party celebrating the world’s LARGEST dinosaurs.

Out of this World Weekend
Saturday, September 22 and Sunday, September 23
Join our mission to learn more about space, astronomy and how scientists learn about our universe through hands-on activities and demonstrations.

Fernbank BOO-seum Weekend
Saturday, October 27 and Sunday, October 28
Ghosts, goblins, princesses and pirates are invited to join us for a safe and not scary trick-or-treating event featuring costumed characters, music, games and more. Special treats for kids in costumes.

Science at Hand Day

Saturday, November 2
Biology, astronomy, ecology—oh my! Which of the sciences will you try? This is a unique chance to learn what it’s like to be a scientist and explore different scientific fields.

Caroling & Cookies Weekend
Saturday, December 1 and Sunday, December 2
Enjoy the sounds of the season and free holiday delights including performances, ornament-making crafts and more.

Be sure to visit our online calendar of events to details on these and other Museum programs.

See you soon!

—Deanna Smith, Director of Marketing

January 19, 2012 at 3:54 pm Leave a comment

New Year, New Opportunities to Get Involved at Fernbank

New Year’s Resolutions

Did you make a resolution this year? Come on, you can tell us. Better yet, let us help you keep those resolutions with a variety of unique opportunities for adults at Fernbank Museum in 2012.

I resolve to…get out more often.
Join us every Friday starting at 6:30pm for Martinis & IMAX®. It’s more than dinner and a movie, it’s the most unique way to spend a Friday night in Atlanta and it won’t break the bank.

I resolve to…make a difference in my community.
Fernbank’s largest volunteer group, the Polaris Guild, is currently recruiting new members. Polaris is a dynamic group of adults filling a valuable role in the success of Fernbank Museum. A variety of roles are available, based on your interests—from greeting guests, to assisting during special events

I resolve to…travel, but on a budget.
Well, we can’t fly you to the rainforest of Borneo or the rugged savannah of Kenya, but we can take you to these places in the comfort of our IMAX® Theatre. It’s armchair traveling at its finest as you sit back and enjoy Born to be Wild and The Greatest Places, both now showing.

I resolve to…do more and see more without spending a lot of money.
We understand. Everyone is looking for ways to cut back on expenses, while still having a good time. Why not buy a Museum membership? Museum members receive free Museum admission, save up to 40% off IMAX® tickets and enjoy other great discounts. Individual levels start at $75.

Do you have resolutions not covered here? Share them on our Facebook page and automatically be entered to win 4 Value Passes (valid for Museum and IMAX® admission)!

Here’s to a happy and prosperous 2012!

—Deanna Smith, Director of Marketing

January 10, 2012 at 3:02 pm 2 comments

2011: A Year in Pictures

As we put the finishing touches on this year, we’d like to take this opportunity to look back over the many wonderful highlights of 2011, told through photos.


Fan favorite "Journey into Amazing Caves" returned to Fernbank's IMAX Theatre, scheduled to open January 10.

However, "Journey into Amazing Caves" was delayed slightly when Fernbank, like most of Atlanta, experienced a rare "snow day" and was closed to the public January 10 and 11.

Baby, it was cold outside!


As the snow melted, buzz was building in anticipation of "Mythic Creatures: Dragons, Unicorns & Mermaids," opening February 19.

"Mythic Creatures" opening day, February 19. Many kids (and adults) came in costume to this festive event.

Juliana (3), daughter of Fernbank staffer Teresa McKelvey, takes one of the "Fernbank NatureQuest" activities for a test run on February 26, before the grand opening.


My, what little teeth they had. On March 3, Fernbank's newest residents, three baby alligators, moved into their new home in "Fernbank NatureQuest."

At long last, "Fernbank NatureQuest" opened to the public on March 19.

An inflatable alligator slide was one of the many activities featured during the opening celebration of "Fernbank NatureQuest," March 19 and 20.


Filmmaker and storm chaser Sean Casey and the TIV (tornado intercept vehicle) visited Fernbank on April 3 as part of the run of "Tornado Alley" in IMAX.

An egg-celent, egg-traordinary egg hunt egg-stravangaza! Fernbank's 2nd annual "Dinosaur Egg Hunt" on April 23 featured more eggs, more hunts and more fun!


Surf's up, dude! "Ultimate Wave" crashed into IMAX on May 6.

Princesses (and pirates) invaded Fernbank on May 14 for a day of family fun!


Nearly 400 mambo-chic guests attended the 17th Annual "Lost Oasis: Mythic Mambo" benefit on June 11.

It was a bird! It was a plane! It was Fernbank's inaugural "Superhero Day," on June 19.


More pirate and princess fun you say? Okay! (July 9)


Well shiver me timbers! More pirates and princesses on August 6.

Fernbank's annual "Dinosaur Birthday Bash" was extended to 2 days (August 20 and 21) in recognition of the "Giants of the Mesozoic's" 20th anniversary.


Checking in on our "Fernbank NatureQuest" alligators on September 7. OH BOY, have they grown!

"Darwin" opened September 24 with a family day celebration that included a "Dress Like Darwin" opportunity.

Say hello to Iggy, the live green iguana featured in "Darwin." (September 24)


Fernbank's annual fundraising gala, "A Timeless Affair" on October 1.

Fernbank's traveling Darwin started popping up all over town. He even made a quick stop at the Mellow Mushroom in Decatur for a slice.

Fernbank's traveling Darwin started popping up all over town. He even made a quick stop at the Mellow Mushroom (October 21) in Decatur for a slice.

Who said Halloween is just for kids? Adults enjoyed the annual Martinis & IMAX Fright Night party on Ocotober 28.

A new tradition! The Museum's inagural "Fernbank BOO-seum" Halloween event (October 29).


Fantastic fall foliage in Fernbank Forest on November 5.

Another photo from Fernbank Forest on November 5.

Fernbank’s 2nd annual "Winter Wonderland: Celebrations & Traditions Around the World" opened November 16.


Atlanta Ballet's Nutcracker Kids performed during the "Caroling & Cupcakes Weekend," December 3 and 4.

A couple enjoying a "Winter Wonderland Celebration Weekend" started dancing, much to the delight of their son watching nearby.

A couple enjoying a "Winter Wonderland Celebration Weekend" started dancing, much to the delight of their son watching nearby. (December 17)

Turkish Student Organization Folk Dance Group performing at a "Winter Wonderland Celebration Weekend." (December 17)

Of course, this is only a small sampling of the exhibitions, films, events and memorable moments from this year. And what a wonderful year we had, thanks in large part to all of you.

Here’s to a happy and prosperous 2012!

—Deanna Smith, Director of Marketing

December 14, 2011 at 2:38 pm Leave a comment

Our Favorite Holiday Traditions, 2011 Edition

Last year on this blog we shared a few of our staff’s favorite holiday traditions in honor of the holiday-inspired exhibition and programming series Winter Wonderland: Celebrations & Traditions Around the World.

Just as Winter Wonderland has returned for a triumphant 2nd year, we are happy to give you another round of some of our favorite holiday traditions. Enjoy!

Every Christmas Eve my family watches National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. We used to beg to open one gift before we went to bed when we were little so it has become a must. On Christmas Day there’s an unwritten rule among my brothers, cousins and I: we try to eat the most food, drink the most spiked punch, and win the most brownie points with my Grandparents as humanly possible. It’s always a treat to have everyone together in Pennsylvania as we live all over the country.
Natalie Keen, Assistant Manager of Member Relations

Thanksgiving is now a costume event with my family.  It stems from my resentment towards my mother from when I was 10 and she made me wear a pilgrim costume to her friend’s thanksgiving dinner.  About 10 years ago, she and I were laughing about it and she said, “okay make me a pilgrim costume and I will wear it.”  So I did. Now every year, she comes as a pilgrim. Also when my niece was born, I made her a costume so that she was the can of cranberry sauce and another year she came as the sweet potato casserole.
Dorothy Love, Assistant Manager of Development

Growing up my mother would play guitar and sing to us. Having been sung to all his life, my older brother John developed an affinity for the guitar and country music early on. When he was very little, he would sing and strum his plastic bat as if it were a guitar. Eventually he graduated to a toy guitar and then a real guitar. Today he lives in Nashville and is a computer programmer by day and a country musician by night. Now my brother plays the guitar each year at Christmas when we all sing Christmas carols.
Marisa Crissey, Communications Design Director

I don’t recall a winter season without my favorite holiday treat, Cheese Daisies. My mother made Cheese Daisies every December from a recipe in one of her favorite cookbooks, the “Charleston Receipts” collected by the Junior League of Charleston 1950. Faithful to the tradition today, I am delighted to share the recipe with you.

  • 1 stick of butter
  • 1 ½ cups of sharp cheddar cheese, grated
  • ¼ cup of Parmesan cheese
  • 1/8 teaspoon of red pepper (a dash more if you want more kick!)
  • ½ teaspoon of salt
  • 1 ½ cups of flour
  • Pecan halves

Cream butter and cheese together. Sift red pepper and salt with flour, then slowly add to the butter and cheese mixture. Knead until creamed together and smooth. Chill for ½ hour. Roll out and cut with a small biscuit cutter or simply pinch a coin size of dough and roll in your hand. Gently press with a pecan half. Bake at 350° for 10-12 minutes. Yields 24 biscuits.
Leslie Rutkowski, Vice President of Development

My favorite holiday tradition is the gathering of my family. As long as I can remember, we have gathered Christmas Eve for a dual celebration—Christmas and my grandpa’s birthday. My grandpa is one of double-digit siblings and he has passed along the commitment to gather the entire family to his 9 children and all the grandchildren. Though some of my aunts & uncles thought we’d have to split into our immediate family groups, they have passed along the commitment to their children. Now, there are over 50 of us to gather… and for most holidays we can all make it. I’m looking forward to Christmas with my family this year and hopeful for Wisconsin snow while we’re there!
Lynn Anders, Education Programs Manager—Animal Programs

If you have a tradition you’d like to share, please e-mail it along with your full name to and if we get enough responses, we’ll share those in a future blog post.

—Deanna Smith, Director of Marketing

December 6, 2011 at 9:38 pm Leave a comment

Older Posts Newer Posts


At Fernbank Museum, there’s much more than dinosaurs and giant-screen films. Even with our website, e-newsletters, Facebook pages and Twitter updates, there’s still a lot we’d like to share with you. This blog is an opportunity for the people that keep Fernbank running and constantly expanding, to share stories from their point of view. We hope you’ll enjoy these first-hand, behind-the-scenes glimpses of what goes into keeping a world-class natural history museum running. As always, we’d love to hear your feedback on these stories, to hear your personal experiences and hear any suggestions for topics. Happy reading!





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