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Raleigh Museum Visitors Can See Mountains, Sea At Same Time

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RALEIGH — People who feel like taking a trip to the mountains can head to the newMuseum of Natural Sciencesin Raleigh instead to visit the western part of the state or east to the ocean.

Designers and engineers went to Linville Falls to make an accurate replica of the western North Carolina mountains.

"Pretty much, we've condensed 50 miles of rock and waterfall into this small area, so it's pretty much the quintessential Linville Falls," says project manager Jon Altemus.

It will be one part of what will be the Mountains to the Sea diorama in the center of the museum.

The exhibit features all the different natural habitats of the state, including the Sandhills and the swamps along the coast.

"Right here in the museum, we have recreated these natural areas," says Betsy Bennett, museum director. "We want visitors to get a sense of what they're like and want to go back and explore them on their own in the real world."

Real leaves and sand help bring the diorama to life, but most of the figures are made of traditional building materials, plaster and epoxy.

It is all put together by a team of artists from California who make models for movies as well as museums.

"I think we now have artists that have a better understanding of North Carolina's natural history than we do of California's," Altemus says.

Once the diorama is complete with simulated sunlight, visitors may feel like they are outdoors when they are not.

One bird already does. He has made himself at home in the exhibit since the snowfall hit in January.

The museum opens April 7.

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Laurie Clowers, Reporter
Chad Whisnant, Photographer
Kamal Wallace, Web Editor

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