WHITEVILLE, NC (WECT) - A few years ago, a museum in downtown Whiteville was facing the possibility of being closed but it survived the legislative chopping block after its mission was changed.
It began as a museum to highlight North Carolina’s forestry industry but when the news came from Raleigh about it no longer receiving money to operate, local museum leaders started to shift the focus from forestry into becoming a branch of the Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh.
On the day we visited the museum, a group of students from Edgewood Elementary School was experiencing the hands-on, interactive learning experiences the museum now offers.
“There are some traditional exhibits that people can come in and look at, but we also have two different spaces for different age groups," said Kelli Lewis, education coordinator for the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. "We have the Discovery Forest, which is behind me, and is for our visitors who are ages 6 and under for the most part.
"On the other side of the museum, we have the investigate lab, which has all types of real scientific equipment but it is put out in a way where children and their parents or adults can learn about how real scientists use equipment together.”
Thanks to a recently announced grant of $35,000 from Duke Energy, the museum will be able to expand programs to getting students out of a classroom and experiencing an interactive connection with the natural world of southeastern North Carolina.
“That hands-on type piece is so important in solidifying different concepts, and like, for example, much of our programs are aligned with what students are learning in schools, so they get that counter piece which helps make learning memorable” said Meredith Morgan, an education specialist at the museum.
By serving as a branch of the main Museum of Natural Sciences, it gives students and adults another opportunity to learn about the natural and scientific surroundings of this part of the state instead of traveling all the way to Raleigh for the same experience.
“We have a unique situation here, not that we just have a building here, but where we are, our ecological environment, down in the swamps, and with the flatlands, the forest, the rivers and our accessibility to the beach, it gives us a lot of opportunities to educate who we are as a world, and how the world affects us, and vice versa," said Bill Thompson, president of the Whiteville branch of the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. "It gives us that first-hand experience that we would not necessarily have if all we did was go to a static museum and look at what they had.”
Thompson says other facilities around the state are being considered in changing their uses into becoming an extension of the main Raleigh museum.
The Whiteville museum is located on Madison Street and has a wide array of programs available for children and adults.