High-tech display system wows Wilson museum visitors

Posted May 26, 2014

— High-tech exhibits are usually restricted to big museums such as the Nature Research Center at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh. That's just one reason the Science on a Sphere, or SOS, is such a big deal for the Imagination Station Science & History Museum in Wilson.

The SOS is a global display system designed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. It uses computers and video projectors to display planetary data onto a 6-foot-diameter sphere, similar to a giant animated globe.

"People love to walk in and see different things," said Jane Stephenson, the museum's director of marketing, volunteer and member services.

The sphere can display everything from current weather conditions worldwide to earthquake reports. Visitors can even take an out-of-this-world trip.

"I can show them the sun, what that would look like," Stephenson said.

But SOS goes beyond wowing visitors to teaching them.

"If something happens on one side of the globe, you can see how it affects the other side of the globe," she said, demonstrating with a display of the 2004 tsunami in Indonesia and Southeast Asia.

"On a map, things are just a rectangle, but here, I can keep spinning, and you can see how it goes around the continents," she said.

Imagination Station gets fresh content for the system every week, and the staff can create their own content as well. Staff members are working on a program to bring every Wilson County sixth-grader to the museum.

"We're kind of a small town. It's good to have something special here," Stephenson said.

A federal grant, along with other grants and private donations, paid the $180,000 cost for the SOS in Wilson. The only other such display in North Carolina is in Manteo.


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  • frosty May 28, 2014

    Really cool. It would be interesting if they could display the effects of volcanic eruptions recent and in the past. I wonder if they can also display ocean currents?

    Looks like a wonderful teaching tool for kids and adults.

  • lucasd06 May 27, 2014

    It's good to see something like this coming to Wilson. The Imagination Station has been a bore for quite some time!