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- Animals & Realms
- Mann Museum
- Conserve Wildlife
Mann's Best Friends19-Mar-2000 Opelika-Auburn News
The hunger and cunning instincts of each animal still exist around every darkened corner. Though their hearts no longer pound with anticipation, their muscles remain tense, staring through blinkless eyes waiting for the moment to pounce and feed or play. Their everyday lives remain frozen in scenes of survival encased in glass to teach us all a lesson about the wilderness and the animals that thrive there. The newly opened Mann Museum and Outdoors is the culmination of George P. Mann’s obsession with the environment and animals he fell in love with as a child hunting with his father. The 35,000-square foot museum features more than 200 exhibits of animals and predators, large and small, encased in painfully detailed displays of their natural setting, with every stone, blade of vegetation and co-habitant placed and mounted just as they lived in the wild. Each display also features hand-painted, picture-perfect backdrops of each animal’s world. This is a project that’s been years in the making for Mann and his family. Though the museum and its collection have continued to swell and engulf the regular lives of its owners, it’s all been for love of the game, said George E. Mann, son of the elder Mann. “This has grown into so much more than we expected,” he said with an exhausted laugh. “It’s been one of those painful experiences that’s real rewarding once it’s finally completed.” The excruciating attention paid to detail which included weeks of work spent on single exhibits, was done for the benefit of the public, not the Mann family, who harvested most of the animals. “We did not build this for the people to know the amount of blood, sweat and tears that went into building this museum,” Mann said. “What we’re trying to do is pass on wildlife conservation through education. We want to teach the young and old about wildlife because we believe appreciation is something that’s taught, not absorbed.” Though most of the animals were harvested by the Mann family for food, this is a museum about conservation, not hunting, said Ira Silberman, vice president and general manager for the museum. “This really isn’t about hunting or fishing,” he said. “It’s about teaching people to appreciate wildlife. Part of wildlife conservation is hunting because it helps to keep diseases out. “It’s all a necessary part of the process.” To the curious visitors, especially children, the animals on display at the Mann Museum are familiar only from programs on The Discovery Channel and Animal Planet. These beasts are not likely to be seen roaming around Chewacla Park, Mann said “It’s all very child oriented,” he said. “Part of it is the excitement of seeing bears, wolves, moose and other animals that before they’ve only seen on TV. Certain animals just have an appeal for children.” The museum’s cast of furry characters includes the deer, bear, skunk, quail, mountain mammals, waterfowl, fox and cats of North America, as well as all the fresh and saltwater game fish of Alabama and the anadromous game fish of southeast Alaska. In addition to the animal scenes, the Mann Museum also features a Danger Section, exhibiting a number of poisonous insects, venomous reptiles and toxic plants, as well as a large collection of fossils and authentic Native American artifacts. Silberman isn’t the least bit concerned about getting children to overcome their boredom complex at the utterance of the word “museum.” The problem might rest with the parents. “It’s what they see that’ll get them excited,” he said. “This is not just a bunch of old relics and stones. These are animals that most kids have only dreamed of seeing and everything is done with children in mind. “The problem won’t be getting children in the museum. It’ll be how will parents get the kids to leave?” Despite the immense collection already on display, the Mann family has big plans for the future, Mann said. “I hope to see this museum become an icon for the community,” he said. “We have many plans for growth and expansion in the future. I hope that one day my grandkids will come here to educate their children about wildlife conservation.” “This museum is forever a work in progress.”
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