Local News

Museum opens new look at science

Posted April 19, 2012 6:02 p.m. EDT
Updated April 20, 2012 5:51 p.m. EDT

Animal specimens are lined up inside the Nature Research Center at the NC Museum of Natural Sciences.

— Hundreds of people were working behind the scenes as the clock ticked Friday to the grand opening of the new wing at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. The Nature Research Center will be an interactive, immersive experience for the Citizen Scientist, employing high-tech to bring scientific research to the level of the average person.

A 24-hour celebration, starting at 5 p.m. Friday, will christen the four-story, 80,000-square-foot center, which features more than 100 interactive exhibits on everything from weather to undersea exploration to DNA testing.

"It's been crazy for a couple weeks, but good crazy," Meg Lowman, director of the new wing, said as workers scurried about installing door locks, polishing counters and laying out food in the Daily Planet Café.

Ninety percent of the eatery's menu comes from North Carolina ingredients. The café, which will serve eight North Carolina draft beers and North Carolina wines on tap, also obtained its liquor license on Thursday.

"We're trying to get in with the green approach to the museum," said Dean Ogan, the owner of Rocky Top Hospitality, which operates the café. "We're not going to produce any bottles, no corks, no waste."

Museum staffers also helped the creatures that will be part of the Nature Research Center settle in to their new home.

"As long as noise is low, he'll be OK," education specialist Peyton Hale said of a snake. "They don't do well with a lot of vibrations, and I think he'll be ready for it."

The exterior of the new wing features a 70-foot-diameter globe – the SECU Daily Planet – and a representative of the Cincinnati company that made it said it was the firm's largest project ever.

Lowman encouraged visitors to explore the entire Nature Research Center.

"Everything will be open, including the green roof, so don't miss going up to the top," she said. "That's really awesome. There will be telescopes out there and lots to see from top to bottom."

While the grand opening event doesn't technically begin inside the museum until 5 p.m. Friday, festivities outside will get started an hour earlier with music from the Shaw University Jazz Band. At 4:30 p.m., dancers from the African-American Dance Ensemble will be among those participating in a procession from the Governor's Mansion. 

Actor Ira David Wood III and Chuck Davis, founder of the African-American Dance Ensemble, will officiate the opening ceremony at 5 p.m.