OMA Award Spotlight - Cleveland Museum of Natural History

Recognizing excellence in Ohio museums during Arts and Humanities Month

To help celebrate October as Arts and Humanities Month, and to kick-off the call for nominations for this year's OMA awards, we'll be highlighting our 2019 OMA Award of Achievement winners throughout the month with our OMA Award Spotlight. We are featuring these Award Winner Spotlights during Arts and Humanities Month to help champion the amazing projects, programs and professionals that make Ohio's museum community strong.

The Awards of Achievement are presented to reflect the outstanding quality and caliber of work by Ohio museums and their professionals in two categories: Institutional Achievement Awards and Individual Achievement Awards.

Nominations for these awards are incredibly detailed. This in-depth process helps to illustrate how these institutions and individuals have gone “above and beyond” the normal call of duty to support their institution, serve their public and advance the cause of the museum community.

Each year, the review panel is overwhelmed by the outstanding projects, innovative programming and dedication to our field as exhibited in each of the institutional and individual nominations. Congratulations again to each of our 2019 award winners! 

Today, we'll be featuring our winner for the 2019 award for Best Exhibition over $500,000.

Cleveland Museum of Natural History - Fossil Hunters: The Search for Our Past

Fossil Hunters: The Search for Our Past takes visitors on a journey back in time to the beginnings of human origins, yet the focus of its narrative is set much, much closer to the present day.

Developed and build by the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, this 4,700 square foot exhibit provides a behind-the-scenes look at the painstaking and sometimes even dangerous conditions faced by expert fossil hunters working in modern-day Ethiopia – particularly focusing on the scientific field work of internationally known paleoanthropologist Dr. Yohannes Haile-Selassie and his team, who have collected an astounding 12,600 fossil specimens over a 15 year period.

Through photographs, interactive elements, and a replica research camp, the exhibition helps visitors better understand the incredible dedication and persistence that scientific discovery often require, and that mostly goes unseen by the public.

During the five month run of the exhibit during the summer and fall of 2019, Fossil Hunters: The Search for Our Past welcomed more than 64,400 museum visitors and school groups. As the first internally-produced exhibition of this size in ten years, the exhibit creatively stretched the CMNH teams across the museum – including exhibits, research and collections, marketing, programs and partnership, and advancement – sparking the need to develop content and programming outside of the museum’s usual models. 

When discussing the impact of the exhibit, one paleontologist at the museum said, “The number one question I get from visitors is ‘what is it like in the field.’ It is impossible to convey the hardships of fieldwork and the exhilaration of discovery without being there in person. But this exhibit changed that, immersing visitors in what it is like to conduct paleontological fieldwork without them ever having to step foot in a remote locale.”

Did your museum have a spectacular exhibit - virtual or physical - during the 2020 season? Be sure to nominate it for the 2020 award for Best Exhibition! Learn more here.


Beth Kelly, Exhibit Project Coordinator, Accepts the Award During the OMA 2020 Virtual Awards Ceremony

One of the fun features of OMA's 2020 Virtual Awards Ceremony was being able to recognize our honorees "accepting" their award via video message. See below for the Cleveland Museum of Natural History's award acceptance video.

Cleveland Museum of Natural History OMA 2019 Award Acceptance Video