Alive With Wonder

H. H. Brimley’s 1930 paper “Do What You Can NOW With What You Have,” published in Museum Years by the American Association of Museums, symbolizes the spirit with which employees built the Museum from its inception. Throughout the Museum’s lifetime its directors made do with inadequate space and insufficient personnel. Those days are not entirely gone, but Museum personnel finally have received a satisfying respite.

crane lowers the dome into place for the new Museum.

A crane lowers the dome into place for the new Museum.

The new North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences opened to a huge fanfare in April 2000—immediately becoming the largest natural history museum in the Southeast. Since that time, more than 2.5 million people have explored the amazing array of exhibits. New technologies now add to the visitor experience, ranging from Web-based interactives and a 256-seat, high-definition movie theater, to a distance-learning classroom that broadcasts to teachers and students statewide and beyond.

Like Brimley, Bennett thrives on change, and continues to raise funds to enhance and extend the Museum’s reach. The N.C. Museum of Forestry in Whiteville, established as a satellite facility in 2000, is creating exhibits and programming with guidance and support from Museum staff. Site preparation has begun for the Green Education Center, which will provide visiting school groups, educators, and researchers on-site opportunities for hands-on science. 

Liz Baird, Museum coordinator of distance learning, interacts with students nationwide using technology in the Museum’s Windows on the World.

Liz Baird, Museum coordinator of distance learning, interacts with students nationwide using technology in the Museum’s Windows on the World.

Planning also is under way for an innovative, 95,000-square-foot Nature Research Center on the block adjacent to the existing Museum. A mixture of visitor destination, research center, and hands-on student laboratory, the facility will spotlight current scientific research, empower science educators, and foster students’ fascination with science.

The power to reach the curious, whether they venture within the building’s walls or to a classroom in their own corner of the state, has grown in ways H. H. Brimley would have had a hard time predicting. But the change that he demanded and the momentum that has gathered force continue to drive Museum development.

- Compiled by Jon Pishney
We are indebted to Museum staff past and present for their research on the Museum’s history. They include Eloise Potter, John Cooper, and Margaret Martin. For more on the subject, see Martin’s 2001 book, A Long Look at Nature, available in the Museum Store and area bookstores.