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  • Diana Matthews

Science museum hosts open house for towns seeking similar branches

The N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences at Whiteville was the site of an event bringing together representatives of other small towns that could one day have similar museum branches.

Officials from the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources sent invitations to city and county representatives in 96 communities, offering them a look at a successful museum that could serve as a template for other regional expansions.

Charles Yelton, Regional Network Chief for the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences, said, “We are proud of the Whiteville community’s museum and what’s been done there, and we look forward to seeing it continue to grow.”

Yelton said that a main purpose of museums is to promote “non-formal education, the experiences that take place outside a classroom. It’s important to expose kids to science outside of school if you’re trying to grow the next crop of scientists, as we are.

“We are here to serve everyone. That can be challenging when our main facilities are in Raleigh. North Carolina is a big state.”

Although there are over 60 science museums within North Carolina, including those run by non-profi t groups, cities and the federal government, they are not evenly distributed. That is why state offi cials would like to help establish more satellite museum branches in “gap areas.”

Emlyn Koster, PhD, director of the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences, presided over the four-hour open house on March 22.

The towns of Corolla, Grifton, Kinston, Mt. Olive, Shallotte, Washington and Williamston sent delegations to the event. The visitors included mayors, city council members, county commissioners, planning directors and others whose input would be vital to establishing a museum or improving an existing one. Welcomes and encouragement were provided by Secretary Susi H. Hamilton and Chief Deputy Secretary H. Reid Wilson of the N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources.

Whiteville museum staff briefed the visitors on dayto-day operations. The group then took a tour of the facility, where they observed Chadbourn Elementary School students using the lab and preschoolers enjoying nature story time.

“Each branch that is set up will be unique in shape and scope, depending on the population’s needs and resources,” Yelton said. “Funding decisions for the branches will be made individually. We don’t anticipate a cookie-cutter approach.

“We were thrilled that Whiteville’s mayor, Terry Mann, served as host. County Manager Bill Clark was there, along with Jennifer Holcomb from the Chamber and Lauren Cole from the community college.” Leaders of the museum’s Friends group attending included Bill Thompson, Andy Anderson, Carlton Williamson, Alan Faulk and Kenny Garland.

The state officials came away “extremely happy with how the day went,” said Yelton. Your community has a lot to be proud of.”

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