Museum Promotes Intimacy with a Sloth as Engagement Strategy

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September 22, 2013; Las Vegas Review-Journal


Nonprofits must think and rethink ways to connect in a memorable way with their publics. This idea is not new but a twist on the naming of the cute new panda at the zoo.

The Nevada State Museum in Las Vegas ran a contest last year to name a mammoth, and this year it is asking its public to help name a 32,000-year-old sloth—a nine-foot-tall lady sloth, apparently, found in a cave by hikers twenty-three years ago. The naming contest is in joyous celebration of National Fossil Day.

Sali Underwood, the museum’s curator of natural history, says they even know what she liked to eat. “The reason we know this is we found sloth poop.”

Museum director Dennis McBride said naming helps create “a more intimate relationship” between the museum and the people it serves. Also, it’s fun, he said. The winner will be acknowledged on a permanent naming plaque and receives a family museum membership, a behind-the-scenes tour of the collection, and a stuffed sloth of their very own.

Underwood thinks they can keep the naming strategy going because “We’ve got a fair amount of stuff to name. It might get down to the brachiopods, but they deserve names too.”—Ruth McCambridge