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Release: July 21, 2000

Schrimper retires as Natural History Museum director; interim named

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- It's the end of an era at the University of Iowa Museum of Natural History as George Schrimper retires after 29 years as director. Julia Golden, a curator in the UI Department of Geoscience, will serve as interim director of the museum during a nationwide search for a permanent successor.

Schrimper, who had been a graduate student in museum studies at the UI, was appointed museum faculty instructor and assistant curator in 1966. His task was to redesign antiquated exhibits so they would be both useable in undergraduate natural science courses and interesting to the museum public.

When the curator at that time retired after 22 years in 1971, Schrimper was appointed museum curator (a title later changed to director) and assistant professor of museum studies. Exhibit renovations continued throughout the 1970s and included the initial planning for a major new exhibit gallery, Iowa Hall.

With the opening of Iowa Hall in 1985, Iowans had their first chance to view some of the best natural history objects in the university's holdings, holdings that had never been displayed before because of inadequate display space. Iowa Hall comprises 6,000 square feet of gallery space illustrating Iowa's geologic record, cultural history and ecology.

More recently, Schrimper oversaw the renovations in Mammal Hall and planned the renovation and installation of the new William and Eleanor Hageboek Hall of Birds.

Linda Maxson, dean of the College of Liberal Arts, said Schrimper's legacy will continue for decades to come.

"In more than 30 years with the museum George has built a tremendous resource for our students, faculty, and the whole state of Iowa," she said. "Thousands of students -- from grade school through graduate school -- have benefited from his dedication to excellence and commitment to education. As we search for permanent leadership I have every confidence in Julia Golden, who has been associated with the museum for many years and has great ideas. She will not be a caretaker, but will move forward and oversee the satisfactory conclusion of the Bird Hall renovation."

Golden says she plans to continue the tradition of quality educational experiences that were the hallmark of Schrimper's tenure. She will pick up where he left off with the bird hall exhibition, which she hopes will open to the public in early 2001. She also will work to expand and enhance the museum's new Web site,

"It's hard to replace somebody like George," she said. "It's slightly intimidating to take on this huge task, but I welcome the challenge."

Golden has served as curator of paleontologic collections in the UI Department of Geoscience since 1980 and as an adjunct instructor in the UI Museum Studies Program since 1993. She is also a managing editor of the Journal of Paleontology. She earned a B.A. and an M.A. in geology from Washington University in St. Louis.

Colleagues say she has demonstrated a deep commitment to the UI collections, providing access to the holdings on a moment's notice and spending many weekends guiding tour groups through the paleontology collection and the Museum of Natural History.