Dinosaurs draw visitors to Museum of Life and Science

Posted August 5, 2010 10:20 a.m. EDT
Updated August 5, 2010 5:42 p.m. EDT

— The allure of dinosaurs helped attract the largest number of annual visitors in the history of the Museum of Life and Science in Durham, museum officials announced Thursday.

From July 2009, when the museum opened its new Dinosaur Trail attraction, through this past June, attendance jumped by nearly a quarter, spokeswoman Taneka Bennett said.

Nearly 85,000 more people visited the museum than in the same period a year earlier, bringing the total number of visitors to 443,751.

Bennett attributed the increase in large part to the popularity of the Dinosaur Trail, a quarter-mile-long trail that features life-sized sculptures of dinosaurs from the Cretaceous period, which was approximately 75 million years ago.

"I love the museum," said Heather Mills, of Oxford, who called herself a regular at the museum. "They can take an abstract concept and bring it down to a hands-on level, therefore making learning interesting and fun."

Families taking trips closer to home and holding more birthday parties and weddings also contributed to the rise in attendance, Bennett said. The museum also held a successful series of events and ran a social-media and targeted marketing campaign.

More visitors are especially welcome in in the current troubled economy, Bennett said. The museum raises three-quarters of its $5.9 million budget from non-government sources.

In 2009, it made a $13.3 million economic impact to Durham County, she said.

The museum, at 433 W. Murray Ave., also features one of the Southeast's largest butterfly conservatories, a 5,000-square-foot pond for remote-controlled sailboats, a fossil dig and indoor and outdoor exhibits housing more than 60 species of animals, including rescued black bears, endangered red wolves and exotic lemurs.