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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The Florida Museum of Natural History recently honored Janet Cornelius and Joyce Thompson as winners of the 2012 James Pope Cheney Volunteer of the Year Award.

Cornelius served 686 hours in two positions at the museum during 2011 and has completed more than 2,000 hours since she began volunteering in January 2009.

Thompson, a former school teacher, serves as a school programs docent and completed 231 hours of service in 2011. She began volunteering in the fall of 2010.

“We feel these two women truly embody the spirit of this award,” said Florida Museum education assistant Amanda Erickson Harvey. “Their service at the museum captures the character and ideals the award stands for, and they both stood out to the selection committee.”

Cornelius volunteers in the anthropology collections and as assistant registrar for anthropology loans at Dickinson Hall. She assists with paperwork, completes detailed inventories, including handling artifacts, creates and updates databases, and assists students with research projects.

“When you work with Janet you can tell how enthusiastic she is about the work,” said Elise LeCompte, Florida Museum anthropology registrar and natural history department assistant chair. “She really wants to be at the museum. Janet is really an assistant and does so much more than is asked of her. She is very valuable to us and everyone loves having her around.”

In addition to her docent position, Thompson helps families explore in the Discovery Room, greets visitors at the front desk, helps with special events and assists with outreach by traveling to local schools to educate children about the museum.

“Joyce is very positive and always has a smile on her face,” said Florida Museum education assistant Jeannette Carlisle. “She has a very positive relationship with staff, students and visitors at the museum.”

The women were recognized during the museum’s annual volunteer reception in April.

The James Pope Cheney Volunteer of the Year Award is presented annually to recognize Florida Museum volunteers who show exceptional interest in museum collections, effort toward the educational advancement of children and enthusiastic support for the museum and volunteer communities. It honors Cheney, who was a Florida Museum docent for 14 years before his death in 2004.

For more information on museum volunteer opportunities, email Florida Museum volunteer coordinator Amy Hester,

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Source: Amanda Harvey, 352-273-2052,
Elise LeCompte, 352-273-1925,
Jeannette Carlisle, 352-273-2026,
Writer: Logan Gerber
Media contact: Paul Ramey, 352-273-2054,