Museum of Natural Sciences in Whiteville is having a concert Saturday, July 15 called The Color of Harmony featuring blues/slide guitarist Lakota John and musician/storyteller Reggie Harris. I spoke to Meredith Morgan from the museum about this event-and about the museum; listen above and see the transcript below. Below the transcript, find more information about exhibits, activities, and events at the Museum.
The Color of Harmony performance is 1:00pm-4:00pm at the museum on the lawn-bring a lawnchair or blanket. This event is connected to an exhibit called Race: Are We So Different?
Meredith: I am a Natural Sciences Education Specialist.
Gina: How did you get into that field?
Meredith: I finished my undergraduate degree in 2008 in environmental studies from UNC Chapel Hill and then decided to pursue a master's in Curriculum and Instruction because I thought I wanted to work in a nontraditional education capacity and that pairing of education has taken me lots different places. But this is really where I would like to be.
Gina: Tell me about your workplace.
Meredith: So, the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences in Whiteville opened in 2015. It was formerly the North Carolina Museum of Forestry, and the Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh chose to repurpose that museum in order to reach broader audiences. They targeted southeastern North Carolina as an area, particularly in the Whiteville area, that was in need of some additional services.
Gina: Some enrichment?
Meredith: Yeah, some additional enrichment and just I think they had done some research and noted that a lot of the people coming to the museum in Raleigh were from the area. And so in order to reach new parts of the state- you know the museum wants to reach all 100 counties- and so they opened up this new branch in 2015. So we've been open just just over two years.
Gina: How is that going and what could I expect if I go and visit this museum?
Meredith: When they initially opened the museum, they took some of the most popular exhibits from the museum in Raleigh. We have an Investigate Lab where people of all ages can come in and use real scientific equipment. We have micro-pipettes and exciting microscopes. And you can look at real slides and you know, use some of the techniques that scientists would use and you can wear a lab coat as well. We have a Discovery Forest which is a really beautiful indoor play and exploratory space, typically for kids seven and under. And there are bio-facts and pelts and books. And kids can dress up as a black widow spider and just have sort of sensory play. It's a lovely place. We also have a nature play space outside where kids can make mud pies and build giant mazes with balls and make fairy homes and that kind of thing. And then we also have programming that goes on, and we have programming for young people of course, we have story time once a week on Wednesdays and every second Saturday. We also have something called Meet Me at the Museum, which is where we invite people from the scientific community to come in and share their research or do an interactive workshop or lead an environmental education activity. And that's geared toward all ages for sure. And there's different people every month. We've got ornithologists that are coming in September to do bird-banding and to study chimney swifts and our August presenter is about pollinators and how to attract pollinators to your gardens. So that among other things, there's a wide variety of things going on at the museum and we're always looking to expand our programming, too. It sounds like it's for young people and for grown up people.
Meredith: We say 1 to 100, or 0 to 100 rather, there really is something for everyone. And we're developing new programs to reach broader audiences as well. You know that that kind of brings us back to this event that's coming up on this Saturday the 15th.
Gina: Tell me all about this event.
Meredith: So Color of Harmony, which is an event that's been made possible by the North Carolina Humanities Council, is an event that's been created in partnership with the Race: Are We So Different exhibit that's going on in Raleigh right now which explores race from multiple facets: biological, cultural, and historical points of view. And so this is our event celebrating that, and it's a one day community event featuring musicians and interactive workshops. We have two phenomenal performers that are coming to share their experiences and talk a little bit about their cultural backgrounds and doing that through song and story.
Gina: Tell me about the two performers.
Meredith: So the first individual going on is Lakota John, John Lakota Locklear is his full name. He is a Native American blues guitarist from southeastern North Carolina. He's really talented. He plays the slide guitar and the Piedmont blues style, just a really talented performer and he's going to be performing first and sharing his awesome musical stylings with us. And the second performer is Reggie Harris and he's really well-traveled performer, a songwriter and a cultural ambassador and he works with diverse groups sort of exploring culture through race and also our shared experiences as well and he's really engaging. So it's going to be a tremendous amount of fun.
Gina: The exhibit in Raleigh-tell me about that connection.
Meredith: So that is a project of the American Anthropological Association and it's been it's been on exhibit since April and it's going to continue to be on exhibit through October 22nd. So that's what's going on in Raleigh. But we wanted to have our take on it. You know in our own personal event you know that's related to that and explore some of those same things. And so A Color of Harmony is our version of that.
Gina: You're celebrating through music.
Gina: That's great.
Meredith: The lawn opens at 12:30 at the museum, and it's a family friendly event so no pets, no coolers, no alcohol. And the music begins at 1:00 o'clock and it's going to go until about 4:00. It's free to the public. Everyone is welcome. We just ask that you bring a chair or a blanket to sit on.
Gina: And is the museum open during that time?
Meredith: Absolutely, we're open Tuesday through Saturday from 9:00 to 5:00 and so the museum would be open during that time if people wanted to come in and see what we had to offer. And also for additional information about our programming.
You know I think people think of museums as being static and unchanging. You know but that's certainly not the case. There's always new things coming in and new things to see. I see new things everyday working there and certainly learn new things. And you know we learn from the people that come in as well, come see us so, there really is something for everyone at this museum.
Gina: So tell me a little bit about your position there and what you do, and imagine a young person who is thinking about what they want to do with their life-and they like science and they're wondering, what would it be like to have your job? Tell me tell me in that kind of way.
Meredith: Sure, so as the Natural Sciences Education Specialist, I oversee public programming. And that's you know some of the programs I've talked about, Meet Me at the Museum, and Storytime, and we have other programs as well. We have Movies on the Lawn once a month too in order to serve the community. We're showing Finding Dory this month which will be really exciting, and next month, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. So we tried to kind of let our community dictate programming, but also think of new and exciting things that we can bring, opportunities that we can bring. My job is exciting because I get to learn new things every day. I'm currently learning all about roly polys in anticipation for a storytime tomorrow. So I get to learn new things and then think of exciting ways to share those, you know, with people of all ages. And we want people to get excited about science and to think of science as this interdisciplinary all-encompassing field, it's something that touches all of us. It reaches everyone, and we just want people to be energized around that and excited, because we are too.
Meet Me at the Museum: Join us for “Meet Me at the Museum: Saturday Explorations,” a free family-friendly science and nature program offered the third Saturday of every month at 1:30.
August 19: Keep the Hives Alive!
Dylan Williams from Toxic Free NC presents a fun and informative workshop on what we can do to protect and promote our honeybees and other pollinators in NC! There will be a documentary screening and Q&A as well as interactive activities for kids. You will take home an “Action Toolkit” with materials and information to start making your backyard a haven for honeybees and native North Carolina pollinators!
Movies on Madison: The North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences at Whiteville and the Columbus County Arts Council have partnered to bring you “Movies on Madison: Summer Cinema Series. Bring a blanket or chair. Museum lawn opens at 8:00 p.m. This is a family-friendly event: no pets, coolers, alcohol or smoking permitted. Refreshments will be available for purchase.
July 21: Finding Dory
August 11: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Storytime: Join us each Wednesday and the 2nd Saturday of every month for a special story and hands-on craft activity. Storytime is recommended for children in preschool to kindergarten, but all ages are welcome! No reservations required for this free program except for groups larger than 10.
Science Cinema: On the last Saturday of each month, the museum shows science movies perfect for the whole family at a variety of times throughout the day (10:00, 12:00, 2:00). Refreshments are available for purchase, and this event is free to the public, but donations are welcome. Science Cinema programming is funded by a grant from the International Paper Foundation.
July 29: The Meerkats
August 26: Deep Blue
The museum experience in Whiteville is modeled after proven interactive programs at the Museum’s Raleigh-based Nature Research Center, Nature Education Center, and Prairie Ridge Ecostation for Wildlife and Learning, and has several features.
Investigate Lab: Visitors of all ages can discover the scientific process by trying a range of experiments with tools and techniques including microscopes, pipettes and more.
Naturalist Center: Featuring an extensive collection of specimens from butterflies to bear claws, snakes to seahorses, and sand dollars to spiders, visitors are encouraged to explore the natural collection.
Nature PlaySpace: Designed to celebrate the importance of outdoor play in the lives and education of children, the space includes areas for art, digging, and exploration. Children can climb over logs, roll in the grass, make mud pies, observe nature and dig for fossils.
Discovery Forest: Developed for young children and families to discover natural wonders from bird wings to beaver sticks, the space is an ideal area for intergenerational learning.
In Your Backyard Resource Center: An information area—featuring material about state parks, aquariums, and other sites within the NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources—where visitors can plan to continue their exploration of North Carolina’s natural places.
Distance Learning Classroom: A space designed to virtually link visitors and students at the Whiteville Museum with scientists at the Raleigh Museum and other locations.