Roger Tory Peterson CEO Plans Reopening

Arthur Pearson has had an unusual first two months on the job after being announced as the inaugural chief executive officer for the Roger Tory Peterson Institute of Natural History on March 16.

The challenges of adapting to the COVID-19 outbreak and corresponding changes in programming have made for a difficult start, but Pearson recently affirmed his commitment to growing and reinvigorating the RTPI in a written appeal outlining planned improvements.

“All events and programs have been cancelled well into the summer, usually our busiest, most important time of the year,” Pearson says in his first spring appeal. “We’re making the best of this unexpected ‘downtime.’ Planning. Strategizing. Getting ready for the day we’re able to swing wide our doors and welcome you back.”

When RTPI is able to open those doors once again, visitors can expect to enjoy the beautiful bronze work of Stefan Savides, a renowned taxidermist and sculptor of birds. Staff members are in the process of preparing a new art and nature trail installation on the 27-acre preserve, which will include large-scale bird sculptures, and a new pollinator meadow. Inside the museum, plans are being made for a new art lab, where visitors of all ages can create their own pieces of artwork inspired by nature. RTPI is also digitizing the Peterson Collection, a catalogue of 800 original paintings from Peterson’s field guides, that will be uploaded online.

“My first day, my first official act was to close the museum, and by the end of the week all of our staff was working from home,” Pearson said. “That’s how I kicked things off here.”

While the timing has certainly been strange, there has been a silver lining underpinning Pearson’s first few months in Jamestown. Evidence can be found outside on any sunny day-more and more people are spending time outdoors.

“We’re all self-quarantining. We’re in our buildings, we’re looking out the window and the window is revealing to us that the world is greening, the birds are singing,” Pearson said. “Spring is wonderful. Spring is lovely and it is a great time of the year to be out in nature. It is one of the safe things that we can do during the shutdown. Take a walk, practice good social distancing. Spring is a beautiful time to be inspired by the world, and in spite of the challenges of the world, to sort of reenergize our spirits. Which I think all of us need during this time.”

RTPI staff have been forced to manage a set of completely unexpected challenges during the shutdown, cancelling programming during their main season while still preparing for the future.

“We are managing the challenges of closing down. We are putting the down time to good use by planning for the future,” Pearson said. “That takes as much work as doing the programming that has been cancelled. We want to make sure that we are ready to reopen our doors, which is doing everything that we need to do to the building so people feel safe to enter the building. Having the proper protocols and everything in place. But I think even more than that we want to be able to reopen with sort of a refreshed sense of how wonderful Roger Tory Peterson is. How beautiful the museum is.”

To help make sure that visitors have a chance to experience these changes, donations to the RTPI can be made at https://donatenow.networkforgood.org/rtpi?code=SPR20.


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