Students fundraise to fix vandalized Ohio geological museum

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) – Months after an Ohio State University student trashed the Orton Geological Museum, an artist, a curator and elementary schoolchildren are helping to piece history back together.

About 175 second- and third-grade gifted students from Hilliard elementary schools did chores, held bake sales and even sold “doughnuts for dinosaurs” to raise money to help repair the museum’s exhibits.

“(The students) made signs that they hung all over the school buildings,” said Jeanne Melvin, a gifted-intervention specialist in the Hilliard school district.

Nathaniel A. Harger, 20, broke into the Orton Hall museum on Jan. 8 and caused about $11,000 in damage, according to university police. Harger, who told police he had been drinking and did not remember how he got into the museum, was charged with breaking and entering, theft and vandalism.

Reproductions of several skulls were damaged. Plexiglas covers on exhibits were toppled and broken. A claw from a real 20-foot skeleton of a giant ground sloth was removed but recovered.

Harger was suspended from Ohio State. He is in a diversion program, and charges will be dismissed if he stays out of trouble, works during his time in the program and pays restitution to the museum. He also must seek alcohol counseling.

A few weeks ago, the museum received a $6,000 check from Harger; and this week, a check for $150. He is supposed to send $150 a month to the museum for the next three years.

The museum also has received more than $700 from fundraising efforts. Some of the key players are elementary students, said Dale Gnidovec, a geologist and collections manager and curator for the museum.

The Hilliard students were studying paleontology as part of a yearlong program and were planning a field trip to the museum when the break-in occurred.

The students brainstormed what they could do to raise money, and each school did something different. Melvin’s group sold baked goods.

“Anything they made, they renamed it to give it a paleontology spin, like someone had brownies and she called them `mud sediment squares,”’ Melvin said.

Others also are helping to restore the museum. Vicki Peffers, an artist in Ostrander, repaired the Tyrannosaurus rex and Cryolophosaurus elliot i skull casts _ free of charge. Peffers said it took her about three weeks to finish the T. rex cast.

“The main thing is, with all the little pieces, you gotta put two pieces together and let them dry for 24 hours,” Peffers said. “There were probably 50 different little pieces.”

Research Casting International Ltd., in Trenton, Ontario, is recasting the Dunkleosteus terrelli, or prehistoric fish, skull that was damaged beyond repair. The new cast is scheduled for delivery in August.

Any additional funds will be used to improve the museum’s exhibits, some of which haven’t been updated in more than 20 years, Gnidovec said.

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Information from: The Columbus Dispatch, http://www.dispatch.com

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