(Raleigh)—Nature never sleeps, so the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences 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 Governor Beverly 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 will be closed Sunday, April 8 through 5 p.m. April 20.

A dazzling display of lights, roving street performers, musicians and internationally known scientists will greet visitors as we 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. Of course, once inside, visitors will be immersed in interactive science and technology exhibits and have the opportunity to perform science activities in our investigate labs and explore research collections in our 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.

4 p.m. Pre-show and Procession

Friday, April 20

Visitors can listen to the smooth sounds of the Shaw University Jazz Band directed by Charles Brown beginning at 4 p.m. 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.

5 p.m. Opening Ceremony

Actor Ira David Wood III and Chuck Davis, founder of the African-American Dance Ensemble, will officiate the opening ceremony. Waters 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 waters 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 pm on 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.

NRC Highlights

SECU Daily Planet

The SECU Daily Planet is a three-story multimedia program area that employs unique audio and visual technologies. Visitors can view images of the natural world from 40 by 40 foot screen from all three stories. They can also listen to presentations from researchers as they talk about their current research.

Exploring the Deep Sea

Visitors can get inside a model submersible and take a virtual tour 2,000 feet below the ocean’s surface and hear about scientists talk about their research on deep-water corals.

Window on Animal Health

Visitors can watch and interact with scientists, veterinarians and pre-veterinary students conducting animal handling, animal checkups and minor surgeries. There will be an audio and visual component to this lab which gives the public opportunities to ask questions, meet the veterinary services staff and learn about veterinary medicine. An example of this is a recent exploratory surgery to remove a mass from a Gecko.

Investigate Labs

There will be three Investigate Labs (Biodiversity, Science Modeling, Micro-world) where visitors can work alongside scientists in hands-on research.

Meet the Scientist

Visitors will also have the opportunity to talk to researchers in special areas around the NRC as these scientists conduct research on climate change, population movements around the globe, meteorites or looking into deep space.

Citizen Science Center

Visitors can learn how to become a citizen scientist on a number of very interesting projects like bird-banding, observing chimpanzee behavior, or the “School of Ants” project that identifies thousands of unknown ant species in and around North Carolina.

Daily Planet Café

Visitors can eat, relax and engage in conversation at the NRC’s street-side café and talk to scientists in an informal setting about their area of research. In many ways this café will be like a sports bar for science.

WRAL Researching Weather Platform

This exhibit uses real artifacts, instruments and data to research and predict weather. An interactive area will let visitors see how rockets, weather balloons, thermometers and wind/water gauges to provide a glimpse of what real-time weather is like in several different locations throughout the western hemisphere as well as access to these locations via a webcam.

WRAL Storm Central

Visitors can track a hurricane or predict tomorrow’s weather and compare their prediction to WRAL Meteorologist, Greg Fishel’s based on information from the National Weather Service, maps, and Doppler radar technology. They can even determine how cloudy it will be, if the wind will be blowing, or whether there will be any precipitation.

Prairie Ridge

There will be activities at the Museum’s field station, Prairie Ridge Ecostation, during the 24-hour grand opening of the NRC. Family-friendly outdoor citizen science projects will be held on the hour on Friday, April 20 from 8 to 11 p.m. (frog calls and moths) and on Saturday, April 21 from 7 to 10 a.m. (bird banding) and noon to 3 p.m. (reptiles & amphibians and bird nests). Prairie Ridge Ecostation is located at 4301 Reedy Creek Road in Raleigh.


Burt’s Bees—April 20 is also Earth Day, so once again, the Museum has partnered with Burt’s Bees to present Planet Earth Celebration in conjunction with our 24-hour opening. This is the fourth year that the Museum has joined forces with Burt’s Bees to put on this earth-friendly celebration and provide awareness and education to the public about more sustainable living. The Burt’s Bees Tent sale will also be on site at the 24-hour opening providing 70 percent off many of their all natural health and beauty products.

NASA—Visitors can hear from retired astronaut, Dr. John Grunsfeld at the opening ceremony. Grunsfeld logged over 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, Dr. 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 pleased to partner with NASA for the 24-hour grand opening continuing a more than decade long relationship.

North Carolina 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, you can celebrate science with more than 30 Expo exhibitors, including Triangle STEM organizations, universities and local scientists. To find more events near you, visit www.ncsciencefestival.org.

Volunteers Still Needed

Two thousand volunteers are needed to help make the Museum’s 24-hour celebration a success. To volunteer go to www.naturalsciences.org/form/NRCopening or contact Tullie Johnson at tullie.johnson@ncdenr.gov or 919.733.7450, ext. 605. For more information, contact Emelia.Cowans@ncdenr.gov or call 919-733-7450, ext. 305 or Jonathan.Pishney@ncdenr.gov or 919-733-7450, ext. 304. For a full schedule of events visit www.naturalsciences.org/programs-events/events/schedule