Programs & Events

Our Universe is Expanding: 24-Hour Grand Opening

Program Number: 
Program Type: 
Apr. 20, 2012 | Friday, 4:00pm
Location: Museum of Natural Sciences - NRC, Main Museum & Bicentennial Plaza

…of the Nature Research Center, the new wing of the NC Museum of Natural Sciences

Friday, April 20, 5pm—Saturday, April 21, 5pm

NRC exterior viewNature never sleeps, so the Nature Research Center will open its doors to the public for the first time with a 24 hour celebration rich in activities and entertainment for everyone.  Exploring how we know what we know, the public will discover science in new ways, unlocking the Citizen Scientist within.

Visitors can answer the question "How do we Know" through a wide choice of activities offering something for everyone. Science is the star of the entire event with presenters and exhibitors across two city blocks, and of course tours of the Nature Research Center.

Inside the new wing, visitors will be immersed in interactive science and technology exhibits. They will have the opportunity to try science activities in our investigate labs, explore our research collections in our high-tech Naturalist Center or view the SECU Daily Planet, a state of the art, three story presentation space.

Key features of the Nature Research Center

Exhibits, Research Labs and Investigate Labs

The Nature Research Center will house four state-of-the-art research laboratories in which scientific staff from the NRC, the Museum, UNC System and visiting scientists from many other academic and corporate partners will engage in research while visitors can observe “science in action” through floor-to-ceiling glass walls.  Adjacent public Investigate Labs will allow visitors to participate in real scientific research and other hands-on activities. Interactive, multimedia exhibits will engage visitors in a wide variety of cutting edge research from Dinosaurs to DNA, to Weather, to Meteorites to Biodiversity to Nanotechnology to Space and Deep Sea Explorations.
More About the Center

Downtown map with parking infoPlan Your Grand Opening Visit

Download maps and get information about transportation, parking, strollers and water at the event.

Entertainment and program venues

SECU Daily Planet (NRC)
SECU Daily Planet Stage (NRC)
Science Café (NRC)
Environmental Conference Center (NRC)
Bicentennial Plaza Stage (in front of the main building)
Museum Auditorium (main building)
Windows on the World (third floor, main building)
Administration Plaza (in front of the Administration Building)

The event landscape will stretch along two blocks of Jones Street adjacent to the main building and in front of the Nature Research Center. Salisbury Street from Edenton to Lane Street will complete the venue. Visitors can enjoy activities, presentations, exhibitors and vendors during the 24 hours. The SECU Daily Planet Stage will be set adjacent to the SECU Daily Planet with the Bicentennial Plaza Stage situated next to the Main Building.

Special event partners include NASA, the NC Science Festival, and Burt's Bees.

Schedule of Events

Schedule of Events & Performances

Daily Planet Schedule

Outdoor Displays & Activities

Indoor Activities


Event Highlights

Pre-Opening Ceremony

Friday, April 20, 4pm
Shaw University Band and the African-American Dance Ensemble
Entertainment will be provided by Shaw University Band.  Chuck Davis will engage the crowd and open the festivities. Processional from Governor’s Residence to SECU Daily Planet Main Stage for official opening led by the Paperhand Puppets.

Opening Ceremony

Friday, April 20, 5pm
Ira David Wood and Chuck Davis will officiate.  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 in the ceremony. 

At the conclusion of the ceremony, the doors of the Nature Research Center will be opened 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.

Nature Research Center – Walk-throughs for 24 hours

Walk-throughs will continue through the evening, late night and into the next day until 4 pm on Saturday. Visitors will gain admittance to the new wing and tour a pre-determined route to assure a safe, quality tour experience.  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. Visitors will arrive in the main building and find an array of activities to enjoy.

Gang Gang Dance

SECU Daily Planet Stage, Friday, 11:30pm
Don’t miss New York experimental dance band Gang Gang Dance, presented by the Hopscotch Music Festival.

“A scientist walks into a bar …”

Daily Planet Café, Friday, midnight–2am
Late night interviews hosted by Science Comedian Brian Malow! Grab a bite, learn some science and share some laughs!

Sustainable Style: Reduce, Reuse, Restyle

SECU Daily Planet Stage, Saturday, 1pm
A community fashion showcase featuring pieces from Redress Raleigh, Art to Wear and Raleigh Denim.

The Science of Beer Making

Acro Café, Friday, 10pm–1am
Presented by Mother Earth Brewing Company and Rocky Top Hospitality.


NRC, 4th Floor
Join Kevin Hussey of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory for a spectacular virtual tour of our Solar System; or explore citizen science through exhibits, games and hands-on activities, including the NASA CERES S’COOL Project, NASA Discovery Kiosks, NASA Clouds and Climate Games and NASA Clouds Observations on the Terrace.

Citizen Science Charge

Saturday, April 21, 5pm
Dr. Meg Lowman
Director, Nature Research Center

A primary mission of the Nature Research Center wing is to promote Citizen Science.  The 24 hour celebration will conclude at the SECU Daily Planet Stage with Dr. Lowman issuing an invitation to visitors to personally engage with science by connecting to one of a myriad of citizen science opportunities.


Raleigh's New World

  • Win a once-in-a-lifetime trip to the Amazon rainforest!
  • Plan a stay on opening weekend or anytime this Spring
  • Get 24 great deals and offers from hotels, restaurants and other attractions in the area.

It’s a great time to plan an overnight or weekend trip to Raleigh!



Grand Opening Events Sponsors

Progress Energy logo

Capitol Broadcasting Company, Inc. logo

Burt's Bees logo

Wells Fargo logo

Time Warner Cable logo

Pepsi Bottling Ventures logo

News and Observer logo

Downtown Raleigh Alliance
Capital Development Services
Clancy & Theys Construction Company
Fentress Architects
O'Brien/Atkins Associates, PA
Rocky Top Hospitality
Tharrington Smith, LLP