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A Visitors Guide to the Amherst College Museum of Natural History

The Amherst College Museum of Natural History, is simply “steeped” in history. Located in Amherst, Massachusetts, a town of about 35,000 people, the College started out in 1821 as a teaching institution for Christian missionaries who would be stationed world wide. Its motto is Terras Irradient, which means “Let them give light to the world”.

Although today there are 1795 students divided almost equally between 886 male and 909 females enrolled, Amherst was originally founded for for the “education of indigent young men of piety and talents for the Christian ministry” and women were not allowed admission. The first 2 women who applied in 1871 were not admitted. However, the college became coeducational in 1975 and Carolyn “Biddy” Martin became the 19th president of Amherst College in June, 2011.

Amherst boasts of being “widely regarded as one of the premier liberal arts colleges in the nation”. It offers a B.Am degree in 36 fields of study and it has a faculty to student ratio of 1 to 8. Students are encouraged to do honors work and in recent years almost half its graduates have done so.

Amherst has always prided itself on its diversity. The Amherst College Trustees make this statement on diversity: “We will continue to give special importance to the inclusion within our student body, our faculty and our staff of talented persons from groups that have experienced prejudice and disadvantage. We do so for the simplest, but most urgent, of reasons: because the best and the brightest people are found in many places, not few; because our classrooms and residence halls are places of dialogue, not monologue; because teaching and learning at their best are conversations with persons other than ourselves about ideas other than our own.”

Amherst graduated its first African American student, Edward Jones, in 1826 and its class of 1870 boasted the first Japanese student, Joseph Hardy Neesima, ever to graduate from a Western college. Joseph Neesima went on to found Doshisha University, Amherst’s sister college in Kyoto Japan.

Diversity initiatives at Amherst include hosting the – “Diversity and Inclusion Blog”; Amherst College Multicultural Center; two diversity open house weekends each fall; Office of Diversity and Inclusion and Career Center information on Diversity and Study Abroad.

Located on a richly landscaped 1000 acre campus dotted with old stately trees, adjacent to downtown Amherst. Its wonderfully diverse collections and museums include:

-The Basset Planetarium

Programs on the night sky

-Beneski Museum of Natural History

Fossils, minerals, dinosaur tracks

-Mead Art Museum

Permanent collection, changing exhibitions, special programs

-Wildlife Sanctuary

500 acres of open fields, wetlands, flood plain woods, river, upland woods, plantation pines and ponds

Amherst college, steeped in rich and colorful history and traditions from the early 19th century is a must see destination for anyone visiting the vicinity of Amherst, Massachusetts. It might even be worth a special destination trip just to experience this historic treasure.