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Chico State

Smith’s Donation Is a Gift to the Community

Professor Emerita Valene L. Smith attended the newly expanded museum's ribbon-cutting ceremony on her birthday, February 14.
(Photos by Jason Halley / University Photographer)

Professor Emerita Valene L. Smith attended the newly expanded museum’s ribbon-cutting ceremony on her birthday, February 14.

The Valene L. Smith Museum of Anthropology is more spectacular than ever before.

CSU, Chico Department of Anthropology Professor Emerita Valene L. Smith donated $250,000 toward the expansion of the museum, which supports one of the country’s premier museum studies programs, marked by a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Smith’s birthday, February 14.

Smith’s recent support allowed for expanding the exhibit space, doubling it in size. Additionally, it will keep the museum to be open year-round.

“The museum is visible. Students can take ideas from here to their parents and say, ‘See what we’re learning?’” Smith said at a reception immediately following the ceremony, where she took her time meandering through the museum, admiring the displays and nearly 3,000 artifacts that were donated from anthropologists and researchers who have spent years working and studying with different peoples across many continents. “That’s more than you can say if you’re sitting in a psych class or a history class.”

The Museum of Anthropology is a teaching museum that trains University students to become curators and other museum professionals, offering a certificate in museum studies.

Smith's generous donation allowed the teaching museum to double in size and stay open year-round.
Smith’s generous donation allowed the teaching museum to double in size and
stay open year-round.

“Thanks to Valene’s significant support of the museum and anthropology program, California State University, Chico is one of few universities in the country where museum studies students learn their craft in an on-campus working museum, providing students rare opportunities to conceive, research, design, and install exhibits,” said University President Gayle E. Hutchinson.

Museum curator Adrienne Scott added that “many of the local museums in Chico, [and] areas spanning from the Bay Area to Oregon, are populated with our graduates, making us one of the premier training institutions in the country for local and regional museums.”

As one of CSU, Chico’s unique and valuable assets, the museum also serves the wider Chico community. It conducts tours for more than 1,000 K–12 students each year and hosts public lectures, as well as three full-scale exhibits annually. The museum also regularly takes exhibits out to K–12 students in the community through its award-winning Museum-in-the-Classroom program.

Smith taught in the anthropology department from 1967 to 1988, was nominated Outstanding Professor in 1981–82, and has been a major supporter of the University’s Museum of Anthropology since Keith Johnson, professor emeritus of the anthropology department, founded it nearly 50 years ago.

Smith continues to travel extensively throughout the world, and her advocacy of travel and anthropology lives on in the museum, which emphasizes a distinctive hands-on educational experience for museum studies students.

Her latest donation ensures curious minds will be satisfied for years to come.

“As a benefactor, she has taken her legacy as an educator to the next level, and in doing so enhances our collective mission to improve the lives and education of students, faculty, and the wider community,” said Hutchinson. “We are grateful for her service, her partnership, and her continued commitment to excellence.”

View the ribbon-cutting ceremony