The Asheville Museum of Science, a new kid-friendly science museum featuring immersive and interactive exhibits is set to open today in downtown Asheville.
The museum on Patton Avenue near Pack Square opens to the public today at noon. (It will also be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, and 1-5 p.m. on Sunday.) With hands-on offerings including microscopes, a 3-D printer, laptops and a maneuverable replica of the Mars Curiosity Rover, the museum greatly expands the offerings of its forebear, The Colburn Earth Science Museum.
The Colburn, founded in 1960 in the nonprofit Pack Place, was for decades a destination for thousands of school children and visitors interested in learning more about gems and minerals. The museum changed its name and broadened its focus several years ago.
Today, the Asheville Museum of Science represents the continued evolution of a space that expects a 40 percent increase in traffic now that it has a street-side presence in the Wells Fargo building in bustling downtown Asheville. (The museum had more than 30,000 visitors last year.)
The move was made possible by wide-ranging support from a variety of supporters and donors, according to the museum’s board president, Jon Neumann. To name just a few: Beverly-Hanks & Associates, Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority, AVL Technologies, Adapt Public Relations, Market Connections, Hendrick Industries, Eaton, BorgWarner, Thermo Fisher Scientific and many more. Miami real estate investor Claire Callen bought the Wells Fargo Building in 2012 for $2.8 million, and both she and local philanthropist Mack Pearsall have been instrumental in the renovation and reuse of the building as a home to the science museum as well as The Collider space above the museum. The Collider is a space for new businesses that are using climate data to create services, software and products.
The museum’s exhibits will show off portions of the original collection of Burnham Colburn, a former Asheville bank president in the 1920s, in the Colburn Hall of Minerals. Other exhibits include an immersive visualization of the solar system, interactive displays on the French Broad River (recognized as one of the oldest rivers on Earth), as well as Appalachian forestry, weather and paleontology. (A 12-foot-tall, 20-foot-long Teratophoneus dinosaur skeleton, which is similar to a tyrannosaurus, is one of the most eye-catching displays.)
The museum continues to raise money toward its goal of $1.3 million. As of September, it had nearly hit the $900,000 mark.