Gina Byars Nolen

Gina Byars Nolen is in the third year of her first term on the board for the Anniston Museum of Natural History. She is in charge of “Midnight Masquerade at the Museum,” a New Year’s Eve fundraiser. Nolen’s goal is to raise $100,000 for the museum, which was recently re-accredited by the American Alliance of Museums.

What is your professional background?

I have a degree in public relations and marketing from Auburn University. I have had several careers: I was the marketing director at the Riverchase Galleria a year or so after it first opened. I worked for a marketing firm out of Atlanta for a while. I worked for a lawyer for a while. I had two children and moved back to Birmingham to be close to family. I got a job with Alabama Power and worked for them for over 20 years; that is what brought me to Anniston.

Tell us about the “Midnight Masquerade at the Museum.”

It will be Dec. 31, starting at 8 p.m., at Longleaf Botanical Gardens. Dress is black tie. Folks can come buy masks at the museum; we have a wide price range: $20-$300. We will also have reserved sofa seating available on a first-come, first-served basis for $1,000 in addition to the cost of your ticket. Each sofa can seat up to five people. You also have the option of purchasing a VIP dinner ticket; the dinner begins at 6 p.m.

How much are tickets?

If you just want to come to the ball, the cost is $100 per ticket. That cost includes hor d’oeuvres, the bar, live music by the Fountain City Players and a champagne toast. We also have a $150 ticket for the ball that includes a four-course plated dinner at the museum provided by David Mashburn as well as a full bar, wine tasting and several other fun things. We will shuttle the VIP dinner attendees from the museum to Longleaf Botanical Gardens for the ball following dinner. There is also a special rate package being offered by the Hotel Finial if someone would prefer not to drive after the ball; you must have a ticket for the ball to receive the special rate. Folks will be shuttled from the museum to the hotel after the ball and back. Call 256-236-0503 to reserve your room.

How unique is a facility like the Anniston Museum of Natural History, especially for a town our size?

Very few towns have something like this at all, let alone a city our size. We have a reach far beyond Anniston; there are seven counties that we really promote the museum to. We had a classroom of third-graders here from Mobile a few weeks ago.

Describe the accreditation process.

This is a process you go through every few years; it is usually on a 10-year cycle. They bring a committee down to talk to board members, volunteers and business owners. They look at the state of affairs of the facility. There is a self-study that you provide them with, and they come double-check it. It is a pretty rigorous year-long process to go through. We just got the news that we were re-accredited.

Why is accreditation important?

It is how we are able to get certain funding and how we are able to get some of the exhibits we are able to get. Not all museums receive this accreditation.

What is the next big project at the museum?

We are renovating the lobby of the museum. This is something that is needed aesthetically and from a maintenance standpoint. We want this part of the museum to be just as exciting as the rest of the museum. Much of the money has been raised for the basic stuff they will do in the lobby.

We are currently scheduled to be finished before the summer, which is our high volume time. The museum will still be open during the renovation.

Faith Dorn is a freelance writer in Anniston. Contact her at