Dian Fossey Memorabilia First Public Display at Brenau

Aug 30, 2011
Rudi Kiefer
Preparing Fossey Exhibit
Brenau University Cataloging Librarian Melissa Hozey applies last-minute organizational touches to the unique exhibit of Dian Fossey’s personal belongings. Brenau first-year students have already seen the motion picture, Gorillas in the Mist, starring Sigourney Weaver as the famous zoologist who was murdered in Rwanda while trying to protect a family of mountain gorillas.

The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International and Brenau University will celebrate the “Year of the Gorilla” this fall with a series of lectures, seminars and other events, all geared toward understanding the work of preserving endangered species and related critical conservation issues.

The events begin Monday, Sept. 21, at 4 p.m. with the opening of a month-long exhibit of items, many of them never before on public display, that were in the Rwandan cottage of Dr. Fossey, the zoologist, when she was murdered the day after Christmas in 1985.

Running through Oct. 20, the library exhibit will be open Sundays through Fridays from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Groups may make an appointment for other times by calling 770-534-6213.

The Sept. 21 opening also will feature a performance by a group playing African drums.The open-to-the-public and students-only events are part of the Kay and Doug Ivester Endowed Program Series at Brenau.

“This is a unique opportunity for university students to interact with the work of active field scientists in conservation,” says Clare Richardson, president and CEO of the Fossey Fund. “It is a wonderful way to introduce important conservation topics and how they are applied in real-world settings.”

Brenau University President Ed Schrader said the joint initiative helps Brenau fulfill its mission not only by providing students insights to global issues but also by providing programs for broader education of the entire community.

“This program series brings to life our commitment to a world view which includes responsible stewardship of our planet and all the life it sustains,” said Schrader. “This provides our students, faculty and neighbors in the community an up-close experience with scholars and practitioners working passionately to preserve the gorilla habitats in central and western Africa.”

The public portion of the series begins Sept. 21 with the opening of the library exhibit of Fossey’s personal items. It will feature a brief performance on African drums, one of which was among Fossey’s possessions, by the Alchemy Drum & Dance Community of Gainesville. Bethany Havas, a research and instruction assistant at the library, is a member of that organization and will perform with the group.

On Friday, Sept. 25, Dr. Tara Stoinski, the Pat and Forest McGrath Chair of Conservation and Research at the Fossey Fund, keynotes the university’s first conference on global and local sustainability issues from 2:30 -7 p.m. at Brenau’s east campus in Gainesville at 1001 Chestnut St. The topic of her talk will be “Gorillas at the Crossroads: How Science, Economics and Society Interface to Save a Species.”

At 7 p.m. on Oct. 13 the university will host in its historic Pearce Auditorium “Science Symposium: A Conversation from the Field” – a public presentation featuring a panel of Fossey Fund staff, including Stoinski; Dr. Katie Fawcett, director of the Fund’s Karisoke Research Center in Rwanda; Felix Ndagijimana, Karisoke’s deputy director; Pierre Kakule, co-director of the Fossey Fund’s programs in the Republic of Congo; and traditional Congo leader Mwami Alex Kalinda.

In addition, Brenau will be a sponsor of the Fossey Fund’s “Gorillas in the Mist” fundraising event Oct. 17 at the Woodruff Arts Center in Atlanta. Fossey Fund staff, scientists, celebrities and others will attend this event, which will feature a showing of the film “Gorillas in the Mist,” based on Dian Fossey’s life and work.

Brenau also will use the work of Fossey and the Fossey Fund as a starting point to help students explore issues related to science, conservation, the environment and global citizenship and related topics. All first-year students in Brenau’s Women’s College will be required to participate in a four-week series of lectures by Fossey Fund scientists and leading staff:

*“Nonprofit Leadership and Management in a War Zone,” by Clare Richardson, president and CEO of the Fund, Sept. 30.

* “Reaching the World: Mass Communication in Changing Times,” by Dr. Erika Archibald, Fossey Fund director of communications, Oct. 7.

* “The Role of Community-Focused Programs in Wildlife Conservation,” by Congo co-director Pierre Kakule and Congo leader Mwami Alex Kalinda, Oct. 14.

The United Nations Environmental Programme Convention on Migratory Species, the UNEP/UNESCO Great Apes Survival Partnership and the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums have joined hands to declare 2009 the Year of the Gorilla. It is part of the United Nations organizations’ Decade of Education in Sustainable Development aimed at helping people develop the attitudes, skills and knowledge to make informed decisions for the benefit of themselves and others, now and in the future, and to act upon these decisions. Sustainable development is a vision of development that encompasses populations, animal and plant species, ecosystems, natural resources and that integrates concerns such as the fight against poverty, gender equality, human rights, education for all, health, human security, intercultural dialogue and many other globally entwined issues.

For more information on the Brenau-Fossey programs and Brenau’s sustainability initiative, click here. For more information on the Oct. 17 “Gorillas in the Mist” event in Atlanta, go to http://www.gorillafund.org/about/events_042009_mist.php

Originally published on 9/18/09