The Asheville Museum of Science opened in 2016 with a mission to provide a state-of-the-art, interactive science experience. While there are exhibits dealing with ecology, climate, weather, astronomy, geology, and paleontology, each of the exhibits is meant to show the connections that bind them all.
Formerly the Colburn Earth Science Museum, the newly minted Asheville Museum of Science is built upon a foundation of scientific curiosity and passion. It all begin with a bank president by the name of Burnham Standish Colburn. Colburn retired in the 1920s and moved to Biltmore Forest, 13 miles away from Asheville.
He made the move specifically to be near the rich mineral fields in the area. He and his brother became the founders of the Southern Appalachian Mineral Society (S.A.M.S) and when Burnham died in 1959, the family put many of the specimens collected on display in a small museum. Through the years, the collection grew and it’s mission broadened to include science exhibits from other fields of study.
Here’s some of what you can expect to see and experience when you visit the Asheville Museum of Science:
- From the collection that began because two brothers were intensely curious about the minerals that make up the planet, there are hundreds of specimens available for viewing, including 350 found in North Carolina. They include mica, feldspar, itacolumite, corundum, quartz, kyanite, and beryl.
- Exhibits covering earthquakes, plate tectonics, volcanoes, and geologic processes like those that helped shape the Western North Carolina mountainside.
- A collection of more than 1,000 gemstones from around the world, including those native to North Carolina. The display includes emerald, ruby, diamond, garnet, morganite, tourmaline, and topaz samples.
- A replica of the Teratophoneus Curriei, first discovered in Utah in 2011. With fossils dating back 600 million years, the Teratophoneus Curriei is thought to be a great-great grandfather to the Tyrannosaurus Rex.
- A hurricane simulator, because weather is fascinating to children and adults alike. In fact, you can expect to learn about all kinds of weather events – particularly those that impact the Southeastern US and Western North Carolina.
- A “bird’s nest” that allows you feel as though you’re nestled in the trees and looking down on the land. It’s the museum’s clever way of introducing biodiversity.
The only real complaint visitors have regarding the Asheville Museum of Science is how small it is and the relative lack of activities for preschool age children. However, it is expanding by the month and adding new exhibits on a regular basis. Staff is present and happy to answer questions. Like the museum whose place it took, this museum is building upon an idea a little at a time. Better yet, it is doing so in a way that allows visitors to become involved in many of the exhibits so that they walk with with a greater understanding of science.
- The fact that the museum is small should not dissuade you from visiting. One technique that engages children is to let them know what they’re going to see and allow them to choose one or two exhibits in which to “deep dive.”
For example, if a child tells you he is particularly interested in the hurricane simulator, provide him with material and stories about hurricanes prior to the trip. It can be as simple as reviewing how hurricanes occur and telling him about Hurricane Hazel, a Category 4 that hit North Carolina in 1954. The idea is to capture a child’s interest before entering the museum. This technique not only gives the child something to look forward to, but also something special to remember.