UI Mobile Museum visits RAGBRAI during final season


The Daily Iowan; Photos by Gaoyu

A staff member watches a visitor operate the touch screen in the UI Mobile Museum on Wednesday, April 11, 2018. (The Daily Iowan/Gaoyuan Pan)

The University of Iowa Mobile Museum is traveling with RAGBRAI across the state to share its final season of interactive and educational exhibits with riders at each stop.

After launching in 2014 as a partnership between the Office of the Vice President for Research, the Office of the State of Archaeologist, and the Pentacrest Museums, the Mobile Museum has inspired people to understand the world by showing exhibits that display cutting-edge research, one-of-a-kind artifacts, and interactive digital media to Iowa communities.

RAGBRAI riders will get the chance to experience the three different 2018 physical exhibits researched and developed by the partnering of numerous UI departments.

The Discover, Develop, Deploy exhibit highlights the UI Institute for Clinical and Translational Science innovative work on nutrition and hearing loss, in addition to its support for healthy lifestyles. The Mobile Museum people teamed up with UI ProtoStudios and inventors to bring their discoveries to visual life.

The Pangolin data sculpture built by Assistant Professor Kevin Ripka tells the amazing story of the critically endangered Pangolins through data visualization in the exhibit A Matter of Scales: Pangolins in Peril. This attraction allows visitors to become interactive with this scale-covered mammal from Africa and Asia.

Last, the Wild Iowa: Awareness, Appreciation, and Action highlights the UI Recreational Services’ outdoors programs including the Iowa Raptor Project, School of the Wild, and Wildlife Camps.

The 2018 exhibits will teach Iowans about the importance of recognizing Iowa’s endangered habitats, species, and scientific marvels.

Earlier this month, UI officials announced that the Mobile Museum will close because of recent state funding cuts. UI administrators evaluated the budget to determine which activities could be trimmed without significantly harming the university’s academic mission or student success, said Anne Bassett, the media-relations director for UI Strategic Communication in an email to The Daily Iowan.

In 2017, this museum on wheels has traveled more than 7,700 miles, attended 54 events, and hosted more than 35,000 visitors, Bassett said.

“We’ve really enjoyed the opportunity to visit some communities in Iowa that we normally wouldn’t be able to reach,” said Elizabeth Reetz, the director of Strategic Initiatives Archaeology, Heritage, and Community Educator.

The Office of the State Archaeologist has done statewide education and outreach for approximately 50 years, and the archaeologists plan to continue to focus on it and search for other sources of grants and funding to help reach across the state, Reetz said.

The office still travels around Iowa with fun and educational Discovery Trunks to expand students’ and community members’ knowledge of the latest research and development at the university.

The UI Museum of Natural History and the Old Capitol Museum are still available, and the public is encouraged to partake of what they offer.

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