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Letter: Cultural institutions inspire us all to learn

Cultural institutions inspire us all to learn

Western New York benefits from a wealth of cultural resources that can inspire people and help them find their calling. Growing up in Amherst, I was privileged to attend many school field trips, and I never missed a day when we would be headed off to visit some neat destination.

Vivid memories include the Buffalo Museum of Science, with its giant pendulum and collection of prehistoric bones; the touch tank at the Aquarium of Niagara; the funky old houses at the Amherst Museum (now Buffalo Niagara Heritage Village); the long corridors of vibrant artwork in the Albright-Knox Art Gallery; wondrous sounds emanating from the stage at Kleinhans Music Hall; and chasing ghosts aboard a gunmetal ship at the Buffalo & Erie County Naval & Military Park.

In the mid-1990s, I collected fossils at an obscure, abandoned quarry in Hamburg that my father had learned about from a co-worker. We traveled there one afternoon in search of something called a brachiopod. It was an interesting – and surreal – experience and we found lots of little shells among the piles of rock and debris.

Years later, I entered college with little impetus for a particular major, but a basic geology course, coupled with my previous experiences, and I was hooked. My scientific journey has taken me to all 50 states and has led to incredible opportunities for teaching, research and collaboration.

Completing my doctorate in geosciences this year reminded me about how it all started – with hands-on field trips to our cultural organizations – and I am incredibly grateful to return to the region to lead one of the very organizations that spurred my interest in science: Penn Dixie (Paleontological & Outdoor Education Center).

I encourage Western New Yorkers to visit as many of these institutions as they can. Take your family to Shakespeare in Delaware Park. Stroll through the Darwin Martin House. Dig for Buffalo’s oldest treasures at Penn Dixie. And be inspired.

Philip J. Stokes, Ph.D.

Executive Director

Hamburg Natural History Society/Penn Dixie

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