About Us

Museum and The Human Spark

The Museum, together with UNC-TV, was one of nine national partnerships chosen by WNET/Thirteen (PBS affiliate in NYC) to conduct local outreach in support of a new television series called The Human Spark. The three-part series— hosted by Alan Alda— explores the nature of human uniqueness and is scheduled to air in January.

To generate awareness and excitement about the series, the Museum will host a Distinguished Panel Discussion in early October. Alda will be part of the panel, along with local evolutionary scientists and primatologists (Jim Costa, Executive Director of Highlands Biological Station; Patricia Gray, Clinical Professor and Senior Research Scientist of Biomusic at UNC-Greensboro; Brian Hare, Evolutionary Anthropologist at Duke University; and Richard Bergl, Curator of Conservation and Research at the NC Zoo). The panel discussion, which is by invitation-only, will be taped by UNC-TV and aired in January to coincide with the premiere of The Human Spark.

Other outreach activities the Museum is planning include a Human Spark display on the 4th floor (to be exhibited from mid-September through mid-November). The Human Spark display is intended to spark conversations among visitors about what makes humans unique. The display will feature two cases of artifacts, including a model of the human brain, a Neanderthal skull, musical instruments, a representation of fire, a computer motherboard and Darwin literature. The display will also include a video element for showing segments from The Human Spark series, as well as interviews with Museum visitors who attempt to answer the question: “What is the human spark?” During this time, the Museum will run “Almost Human,” a film featuring Jane Goodall that also examines the uniqueness of humanity.

In addition, the Museum will present a Human Spark-themed Science Café on October 20th from 6:30-8:30 pm at Tir Na Nog (218 South Blount Street in Raleigh). Phillip Barron, managing editor of the "On the Human" project, will be scheduled to present a discussion exploring advances in biomedical science and technology and how they are pushing the boundaries of human limitations, particularly in the field of sports medicine. RSVP to katey.ahmann@naturalsciences.org. A Human Spark-themed First Friday is planned for November.

The Museum is also collaborating with UNC-TV, the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center and NC State's University Theatre to present RE:Design, a dramatization of correspondence between Charles Darwin and Asa Gray. The theatrical production is scheduled from November 4-8, (7pm Wed; 8pm Thurs.-Sat., 3pm Sun.) in the Kennedy-McIlwee Studio Theatre in the newly renovated Thompson Hall. All tickets are $10 (NCSU student tickets are $5). The 7pm opening night performance on Wednesday, November 4 will be followed by a panel discussion and include Dr. Costa; Dr. Will Kimler, Professor of History at NCSU; and Dr. Jean Beagle Ristaino, Professor of Plant Pathology at NCSU. For tickets to the performance, please contact Ticket Central at 919.515.1100.

Major funding for The Human Spark was provided by the National Science Foundation, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, and the John Templeton Foundation. Additional funding was provided by The Winston Foundation. The October event and UNC-TV’s broadcast of The Human Spark is made possible, in part, by the generous support of the North Carolina Science Leadership Association.