New Nature Research Center Opens at Museum
Nature never sleeps, so the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, in Raleigh, will open its new wing, the Nature Research Center (NRC), with a 24-hour grand opening beginning at 5 p.m. on Friday, April 20.
This celebration is expected to attract 50,000 visitors and capture global imagination, national recognition and local attention, while maintaining a commitment to environmental sustainability.
The 80,000-square-foot expansion includes several green features, including LED lights from CREE, a green roof to reduce runoff, water collection in cisterns, and photovoltaic panels.
Invitees include Gov. Bev Perdue, legislative leaders, NRC supporters, visionaries in sustainability, and "rock stars" in science like Mark Moffett, Jane Goodall and Paul Rose.
To prepare for the grand opening of the new wing, the museum is closed until 5 p.m. April 20.
A dazzling display of lights, roving street performers, musicians and internationally known scientists will greet visitors as the museum publicly throw the doors open to the Nature Research Center, unlocking "how we know what we know" to the public, who will discover science in a whole new dimension.
Education will play a starring role in all activities, from global town halls in the SECU Daily Planet on diverse topics such as health, sustainability and forestry, to programming about leading edge research before visitors enter.
Once inside, visitors will be immersed in interactive science and technology exhibits and have the opportunity to perform science activities in the investigate labs, and explore research collections in the high-tech Naturalist Center with interactive touch tables.
They will even experience what it feels like to ride inside a submersible 2,000 feet below the ocean's surface, and predict the weather in the WRAL Storm Central exhibit.
Beginning at 4 p.m., Friday, April 20, visitors can listen to the smooth sounds of the Shaw University Jazz Band, directed by Charles Brown.
At 4:30 p.m., a procession from the Governor's Mansion begins with dancers from the African-American Dance Ensemble, the Paperhand Puppets and International Focus of Raleigh, 25 local international groups dressed in native costumes, led by Sir Walter Raleigh.
Actor Ira David Wood III and Chuck Davis, founder of the African-American Dance Ensemble, will officiate the opening ceremony at 5 p.m.
Water collected from rivers, oceans and lakes around the world will be brought to the stage to symbolize the global nature of the Nature Research Center and acknowledge the life-giving water of planet Earth.
Specially commissioned vessels created by Seagrove clay artists and a single large pottery font created by Mark Hewitt will be used to connect culture with nature during the ceremony.
At the conclusion of the ceremony, the doors of the Nature Research Center will open with the cutting of a native plant and flower bower across the doors of the new wing.
Following the opening ceremony, the Nature Research Center will be open for tours around the clock. Walk-throughs will continue through the evening, overnight hours and into the next day, until 4 p.m. Saturday, April 21.
The entrance will be through the main doors on Jones Street with visitors exiting over the skyway bridge that crosses Salisbury Street into the main museum building. Exhibit areas will be open and staffed to provide an interactive experience and an array of activities to enjoy.
The 24-hour celebration concludes at 5 p.m. Saturday, April 21, with a citizen science charge led by Dr. "Canopy," Meg Lowman, director of the Nature Research Center, inviting visitors to personally engage with science by connecting to one of a myriad of citizen science opportunities.
Visitors can hear from retired astronaut Dr. John Grunsfeld at the opening ceremony. Grunsfeld logged more than 58 days in space on five shuttle missions, including 58 hours and 30 minutes of spacewalk time.
He also visited Hubble three times, performing a total of eight spacewalks to service and upgrade the observatory.
Currently, Grunsfeld is the associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate. He now oversees all planetary missions as well as the Hubble and (future) Webb telescopes.
"The museum is pleased to partner with NASA for the 24-hour grand opening continuing a more than decade-long relationship," says a spokesman.
N.C. Science Festival
The grand opening of the Nature Research Center is a signature event of the North Carolina Science Festival. The annual Triangle Science and Engineering Expo features hands-on activities and demonstrations for the science enthusiast.
On April 20 from 4 to 11 p.m. at the new wing's grand opening, visitors can celebrate science with more than 30 Expo exhibitors, including Triangle STEM organizations, universities and local scientists.
For a full schedule of events, visit the website www.naturalsciences. org/programs-events/ events/schedule.
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