By Emma Castleberry
The Asheville Museum of Science (AMOS) started in 1960 as the Burnham S. Colburn Memorial Museum. Colburn was a local engineer and bank president who amassed an impressive collection of minerals and helped to found the Southern Appalachian Mineral Society (SAMS). Upon Colburn’s death, his family donated his mineral collection to SAMS, who opened the memorial museum to display the collection. Over the following decades, the Colburn Memorial Museum took on new names and locations as its collection and mission evolved, ultimately opening its doors in 2016 as the Asheville Museum of Science. “As a nonprofit, scientific literacy is at the heart of our mission,” says AMOS executive director Amanda Bryant. “Science can be found all around us. Learning about it and experiencing it firsthand sparks the imagination and fosters lifelong curiosity. Area educators, locals, tourists and science enthusiasts depend on AMOS to provide hands-on, engaging activities that support the growth of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) leaders.”
Since opening in 2016, AMOS has added eight permanent exhibits, doubled its field trip options, created an afterschool program and expanded the museum shop, proceeds from which help to fund the museum’s programs. Interactive exhibits at AMOS include the Colburn Hall of Minerals, Interactive Panorama, Terra Box, Teratophoneus Dinosaur Skeleton, Fossil Dig, Southern Appalachian Forest, Toddler Nest and a hands-on STEM Lab. In addition to the exhibitions and displays within their physical space, AMOS also provides educational programs for learners of all ages, including science camps, Saturday STEAM and adult science events. “AMOS specializes in engaging and hands-on programing,” says Bryant. “Decades of comprehensive studies and research have shown that informal learning makes concrete, measurable contributions to student success—not only in the classroom environment but in broader measures of youth development and self-efficacy. At AMOS, we want to be known for planting seeds for exploring the world around us—from how something is engineered, to the chemistry of our local products and goods, to understanding what makes up our mountains and rivers and why it’s important to take care of them.”
Murphy Funkhouser Capps discovered AMOS while looking for a rainy-day activity for her children, ages 3 and 9 at the time. She became a member shortly after her first visit. “AMOS is a great partner in the schools and our community, and I felt they were a good organization to support,” she says. “Additionally, their exhibits and activities are always changing, so it’s worth the cost of membership to get to see it all. Science doesn’t have to be boring—it can be fun, engaging and interactive. In fact, this is how kids learn best. AMOS is the perfect two- hour stop on a Saturday, as well as a great way to stimulate imagination and creativity.”
With the rapidly growing number of Asheville residents and visitors, the museum is undergoing natural growth. “In our current space, we are busting at the seams with field trips, local guests and visitors,” says Bryant. “As one of the few family-friendly indoor locations in our area, we have a responsibility to continue providing quality and fun STEM education, all while growing with the region.”
On Thursday, September 26, AMOS will hold the 6th annual Under the Stars fundraiser, featuring food, drinks, music and interactive science activities, as well as a silent and live auction. Proceeds from the event will go to support the museum’s mission. For more information or to purchase tickets to Under the Stars, visit AshevilleScience.org.