CARIBOU, Maine — The Nylander Museum of Natural History will be open every day until mid-August thanks to the help of new hires via the AmeriCorps VISTA program.
Museum Board President Gail Hagelstein said she had been in talks with Bill Flagg, communications director of Cary Medical Center, about finding a grant program to assist with hiring the new employees. Once the opportunity presented itself via the Center for the Advancement of Rural Living program, Hagelstein brought the idea to museum board members, all of whom expressed support.
Hagelstein said employees will be cross-trained so one can take on the duties of another if necessary, and that Flagg would ideally like to see Caribou become a hub for VISTA workers in the future.
The museum now has two paid employees who are working 40 hours a week for 10 weeks. With the added personnel, the museum will be open 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and board members will fill in 1-3 p.m. Sundays.
“We’re thrilled to have them,” said Hagelstein. “We will have 800 hours total with these two, and we have a list of duties, responsibilities, all sorts of different fun activities, projects and programs they can do.”
VISTA workers Jada Molton and Stephenie Bragg said on June 10, their first day, that they are looking forward to the opportunity.
Molton, who originally went to school for archaeology, said her interest in museum work inspired her to apply.
“Gail got back to me about my application for the museum and I volunteered for a day,’ Molton said, “and about two weeks later she told me the museum had an internship opportunity, and I said ‘of course.’”
Bragg also found out about the opportunity through Hagelstein, who is her neighbor.
“She came over and asked me if I was interested,” said Bragg. “She knew I went to MSSM and that I was interested in environmental science.”
Both began with an orientation webinar, and Molton said she is working to familiarize herself with the museum, adding that she has plenty of ideas for programs as she has experience working as an ed tech in Washburn.
“I’m used to working with kids and forming a bond with them,” Molton said, “and I think that would be really cool to do in a museum setting.”
Bragg said she pursued an internship a couple summers ago in which she researched songbirds, adding that Hagelstein has asked her to set up a display on the topic.
Molton said she ultimately hopes to get more experience learning about the day-to-day operations of a museum, and learning about what goes on behind the scenes, “whether it be fundraising or the programs we do with the public.”
Bragg said she is particularly interested in marine biology and is fascinated by the museum’s collection of shells and coral, whereas Molton is interested in the Native American display.
“That’s kind of my background,” she said, adding that the animal displays are “really cool to look at.”
“We have a fisher in the other room that has porcupine quills stuck in his leg,” Molton said. “I think it’s interesting that you can see it encountered a porcupine before it went through taxidermy.”
Michael Gleason was also brought on to work at the Caribou museum managing a Central Aroostook Chamber of Commerce tourism information center.
According to a statement from the chamber, Gleason will be at the museum from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, and is also “working on special projects” to enhance the Chamber’s presence.