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Major Expansion Planned At Raleigh Museum

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RALEIGH, N.C. — The Museum of Natural Sciences is already the No. 1 field trip destination for students in the state. It's now planning new ways for kids to remain interested in science.

There's so much to learn and see at the Museum of Natural Sciences, the Connelly family keeps coming back.

"Of all the museums I've gone to, this is my favorite museum," said Mary Kate Connelly.

With 700,000 patrons per year, the museum is the most visited in the state. Leaders believe there is an appetite for more.

Imagine a walkway over Salisbury Street leading to a four-story planet. It will be visible from inside and outside from Jones Street as part of a new Nature Research Center.

"There's so much scientific research going on that it's very difficult for the public to understand the research that affects their daily lives, so we would like to be a window into that scientific research," said museum director Betsy Bennett.

It's a way for 4th-graders and above to really understand how science impacts us all. The hope is to get more children interested in fields of science.

The Nature Research Center will be part of a public/private partnership that will take up most of a city block. The State Employees Credit Union and Department of Environment and Natural Resources will also move in to what's being dubbed the Green Square Project.

The total cost for the 345,000-sq. ft. plan is projected at $105 million. The museum will fund its $50 million share with some local and federal money, but mainly through donations.

Sheila Connelly thinks an investigative science center makes sense.

"Those are things children and adults need to know about, I think it will be really interesting," she said.

The project includes two levels of underground parking. Construction should begin this time next year. The new center could open by the spring of 2009.


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