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See still-life stories, craftwork at natural history museum (video)

By Carolina Astrain
Aug. 24, 2013 at 3:24 a.m.

A massive Russian bear in the corner of the El Campo Museum of Natural History greets visitors upon entry.

IF YOU GO

• WHAT: El Campo Museum of Natural History

• WHERE: 2350 N. Mechanic St., El Campo

• WHEN: 10 a.m.-noon and 1-5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday; 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday

• COST: Free admission

SAVE THE DATE

• WHAT: Run Wild 5K race

• WHERE: Downtown El Campo

• WHEN: 8:30 a.m. Oct. 5

• NOTE: This is the El Campo Museum of Natural History's main fundraiser of the year.

EL CAMPO - When Emorie Dornak, 9, first stepped into the museum five years ago, she screamed before running out the door.

The still-life animals showcased at the El Campo Museum of Natural History startled her.

But after a few more visits, she started to feel more at home inside the museum's taxidermy-laden walls.

A wall patterned with mounted antlers and a massive Russian bear in the corner greets visitors upon entry.

Cheri McGuirk, the museum's director, was leading a craft workshop with six children one summer afternoon.

Emorie pounded away at salt dough, trying to get the consistency right for her ornament.

Puffs of flour whirred in the arm as the children laughed and checked out each other's designs.

McGuirk led the class with a firm hand, keeping the young crafters on task.

In a hot pink summer dress, Kristen Bubela, 9, was making fast friends with the other seasoned El Campo students.

Kristen and her family had just moved to El Campo from Austin to be closer to family.

The animals are her favorite part of the museum, and she said the transition from a big city to a smaller community has been "sad and exciting."

McGuirk said she has noticed a resurgence of former El Campo residents returning to the city after spending a few years in bigger cities.

"We get a lot of families that have grown up here that have moved back," the museum director said.

The museum's location, almost equidistant between Victoria and Houston, is one of its major strengths, McGuirk said.

"My husband works in Houston and commutes back and forth," she said. "And Austin isn't that far away either. We're pretty centrally located."

The museum's origins go back to 1972, when Dr. and Mrs. E.A. Weinheimer donated animal trophies he had collected on big game hunts to the city of El Campo.

More recently, Victoria personal injury attorney Steve McManus donated an additional 400 mounted animals to the exhibit.

"We must have the largest number of mounted animals on display," McGuirk said. "The most important part about all of this has to be the stories behind each piece."

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