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The Florida Museum of Natural History recently recognized operations coordinator Kurt Auffenberg as the 2010 recipient of the Thompson Van Hyning Award.

The service award, the highest given to museum employees who are not faculty members or students, honors the museum’s first director, Thompson Van Hyning, who was appointed in 1914. Van Hyning was known for going above and beyond normal responsibilities and helped draft a bill for the Florida Legislature in 1917 that established the museum as the official state natural history museum. The award was created in 1984 and is given out about every three years.

Auffenberg, a museum employee since 1978, started volunteering unofficially at the age of 12 with his father, herpetology curator Walter Auffenberg. Kurt has been with the museum ever since.

“There’s been an Auffenberg darkening these halls continuously since 1963,” Auffenberg said. “Inheriting my father’s Germanic work ethic and my mother’s ‘Oh, be quiet and just do it’ attitude, I’ve done everything from original research to cleaning the carpet.”

vintage black and white photo of a family holding a large lizard-like animal
Florida Museum archival photo of Walter Auffenberg (center) and several family members.

Auffenberg began his career as a museum technician and later worked 19 years as malacology collections manager. He later became collections manager for the museum’s exhibits and public programs division, and since 2003, has worked as coordinator of museum operations at Powell Hall. In this position, Auffenberg is responsible for everything from daily maintenance to serving as project manager for major permanent and traveling exhibits, including “Florida Fossils: Evolution of Life and Land” and “Megalodon: Largest Shark that Ever Lived.”

He remains interested in science, and over the years has described 14 new species of animals: 13 snails and a gecko. Auffenberg has published 35 scientific journal articles since 1982, with several more in progress.

He received a bronzini eagle statue and a $500 career development grant. His name also will be added to a plaque in Dickinson Hall.