Members Night: Why it Rocks

By Gelsey Torres

Every year we share our most prized possessions with our members and invite them to take a look at what we have tucked away in our collections. Have you ever wondered what we keep behind those closed doors? In 2014 I asked longtime member Edward B., then 11, why he keeps coming back year after year to explore the Academy behind the scenes.

G.T.: Why do you enjoy Members’ Night?

E.B.: I enjoy Members’ Night because each time I go there’s always something different to see. Each Members’ Night has a theme, so I learn about topics and see parts of the collection I normally wouldn’t. The first time I went to Members’ Night, three years ago, I got to X-ray a pig’s foot. I got to see the femur, the tibia, and the cartilage that made up the pig’s foot. Last year, I went to the Botany Department and I got to try my hand at botanical illustration. I used a magnifying glass to look at the flower while I traced it onto a sheet of paper.

My favorite thing to do at Members’ Night is to visit the scientists’ offices and chat with them. I want to be a paleontologist someday, so I tend to spend the most time talking to the researchers in the Paleontology Department. My favorite scientist is Ned Gilmore, collection manager for the Department of Vertebrate Zoology. He has the biggest office space ever. He has shown me the specimens in the Academy’s collection as well as things he has personally collected. He has even helped me identify specimens I have collected myself.

G.T.: What was your favorite Members’ Night?

E.B.: My favorite Members’ Night was two years ago. I went to the Ichthyology Department. It was a big room, full of shelves with anglerfish and eels in jars. Another room had fishing nets and origami fish. We learned about what makes a good fishing net and that good fishing nets can catch all kinds of fish. We then counted how many origami fish would get stuck in each of the nets.

G.T.: Why does your family continue to support the Academy?

E.B.: I love the Academy and I want to learn everything about it. It is full of treasures I would never get to see anywhere else. There is so much to see that sometimes I forget what I have seen already. There have been times when I get up in the morning and I just feel like going to the Academy to look at the T. rex skull again because I forgot how many teeth a T. rex has. I always make sure I visit the changing exhibits and the special festivals. Who knows what I will get to see next?

Come to this year’s Members’ Night on Friday, September 30, from 5–9 p.m. to get your first-hand look behind the scenes. Not a member of the Academy yet? That’s okay! Click here to get more information on how you can become a member today.

This piece was originally published in 2014 on

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