The Fairbanks Museum and Planetarium is northern New England's premiere museum of natural history. The Museum was founded in 1889 by St. Johnsbury industrialist Franklin Fairbanks. A lifelong amateur naturalist, Fairbanks collected examples of nature's artistry and diversity throughout the world. His vast personal collections were first made accessible to the public in his "cabinet of curiosities" at Underclyffe, his elegant St. Johnsbury mansion. Fairbanks commissioned architect Lambert Packard to design a monumental structure in which to make his remarkable collections available for display and study. To this day, the collections of Franklin Fairbanks remain the backbone of northern New England's largest museum of natural history.
This organization is also part of a Geotourism Initiative. Vermont's Northeast Kingdom, located in northeastern Vermont, has long embraced the ideals that comprise National Geographic's geotourism programs. Geotourism, as defined by the National Geographic Center for Sustainable Destinations is "tourism that sustains or enhances the geographical character of a place. It's a destination where you can have an authentic travel experience without harming the place." Jonathan Tourtellot, director of the Society's Center for Sustainable Destinations, describes the NEK as "the real Vermont...This is rural America at its most nostalgic, enlivened by a vibrant cultural arts community and the wonderful Vermont scenery. There are scenic back roads to drive, quaint little towns to explore, wonderful hiking in the summer and great skiing in the winter." To ensure the development of a geotourism program that is true to the Kingdom, a Geotourism Alliance was established to help steward the formation of this program. Today, this Alliance is comprised of over 20 member organizations who provide input and support as the Northeast Kingdom Geotourism Program evolves.