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A Museum Tour for Proud Geeks and Science Online Conference-Goers

January 30, 2013

by Helen Chappell

Starting today, the Triangle (and the Museum) will be invaded by the 2013 Science Online conference, an annual event where participants explore the intersection between science and the web.  Whether you’re here for #scio13 or not, here’s a geeky museum tour we think you’ll enjoy.  Appropriately for a group of internet-focused folks, it’s got more web links than you can shake a mouse at.

Start your geektastic  tour at the Main Building’s entrance, on Jones Street across from the North Carolina History Museum.

view of main museum entrance

As you enter, breeze right on past the front desk and box office – admission has been free since the museum opened more than a century ago.

Hang a right into the Coastal North Carolina gallery.

view of coastal exhibit

Since so many #scio13ers are visiting from out of state (or even abroad), it’s worth taking a bit of time to see the rest of North Carolina, at least a simulacrum of it.  The coastal gallery has some awesome dioramas of life on the Carolina coast and lots of cool information about the forces that shape it.  Don’t miss the bioluminescent vomiting shrimp that captivated Brian Switek last year!

Head upstairs into the Mountains to Sea gallery.

view of mountains to sea exhibit

Continuing our Raleigh-based tour of North Cackalacky, take some time to wander through a longleaf pine forest.  Longleaf pine forests used to cover much of the state, but after centuries of exploitation and fire suppression, now they only exist in isolated patches.  While you’re here, keep an eye out for the pickled trees, and don’t miss our two-story mountain waterfall.

Travel to the third floor and visit Acro, a.k.a. the Terror of the South.

view of acrocanthasaurus skeleton

No, it’s not a T. Rex.  It’s way cooler than T. Rex.  The skeleton in front of you is the only real Acrocanthasaurus atokensis on display in the entire world.  Not only that, it’s the most complete Acro specimen ever found.  Be impressed.  Be very impressed.

The Acro gallery also illustrates an important lesson in communication – meet your audience where they’re at.  The way the gallery was originally designed, almost all our visitors came away believing they’d seen a boring old T. RexAfter an evaluation to identify the problem and a set of redesigned signage, more visitors understand just how special the fossil in front of them really is.

Cross the Mountains to Sea overlook and meet our snakes.  For bonus points, head up to the fourth floor.  Check out the Arthropod Zoo and meet our sloth in the Living Conservatory.

view of living conservatory

Because honestly, when was the last time you were outside and saw some wildlife?  Your pets don’t count.  Neither does the wildlife of your body.

Descend back to the second floor and cross the bridge to the Nature Research Center.

view of whale skeletons

On your way, take a peek over the balcony at our impressive collection of whale skeletons—all species that swim off the North Carolina coast. But, to our consternation, visitors often think these behemoths are flying dinosaurs, or ancient birds.  Really, we’ve heard them telling each other that. Let us know if you have creative ideas about how to help our visitors correctly identify them.

Now you’re in the Nature Research Center, our brand spanking new wing!  Check out the Daily Planet, our three-story theater.

view of the daily planet theater

If there’s a live presentation going on, heckle your friends from the balcony.  If not, indulge in your favorite Clark Kent superhero journalist fantasies for a moment and enjoy a few big screen science shorts.

Turn around and explore our climate change exhibit.

view of climate change exhibit

Leave your thoughts on the sticky note feedback board, but don’t forget that Twitter is watching you.  And if you think you’ve got all the answers about climate change, challenge your friends to the mitigation simulator and see who can better avert catastrophe.

Cruise through the second floor and peer in the windows of the Earth Observation lab.

Please remember not to feed the scientists.  Do not tap on the glass, as scientists are easily startled.

Head upstairs to the third floor, making sure to admire the ribbon sculpture in the atrium and our giant microbes by the window.

view of the ribbon sculpture

view of the microbe display

No, you can’t take one home.  They bite, especially the rotifer.  There’s a story behind that, if you’re lucky enough to catch Wendy or Helen at the conference.

Explore the Ancient Fossils, New Discoveries exhibit.

view of third floor exhibits

Part of this exhibit – the part decorated with a juvenile T. Rex – explores Mary Schweitzer’s recent research about the preservation of soft tissue in dinosaur fossils.  This is big stuff, and definitely shouldn’t be missed.

Be sure to check out our digital Ediacaran interactive, too.  What looks like a boring old rock at first glance comes alive once you start seeing what paleontologists see.

Peer in the windows of the Paleontology and Geology lab.

view of paleontologist and visitor

Watch your fingers – paleontologists bite!

Descend to the first floor and check out our 10,000 gallon aquarium.

view of lionfish

When was the last time you went to the beach?

Cross the first floor and take some time to explore the Science News, Your Views exhibit.

We update this exhibit weekly with excerpts from our favorite science stories from newspaper, radio, and even blogs.  Perhaps we even featured your work!  Enjoy the ego boost, test your scientific vocabulary, and answer our survey question while you’re there.

Finish your tour by visiting Stumpy in our Researching Right Whales exhibit. She’s hard to miss.

view of right whale exhibit

Poor Stumpy.  She was pregnant when she died after being struck by a ship, but a team of researchers made sure it wasn’t in vain.  This exhibit is one of our favorite examples of scientific storytelling in the Museum, so be sure to give it a good look.

Report back.

Last year’s Science Online conference inspired lots of great blog posts and other feedback for the Museum.  Let us know that you had a great time!

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