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History of Asheville Museum of Science


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The doors to the Asheville Museum of Science open on November 11th, 2016. The journey to our new location, in the heart of downtown Asheville, is one with a rich history of many twists and turns, re-branding and expanding to meet the educational needs of our Asheville community. We are excited to provide a premier science experience, exploring the science of place in western North Carolina. Our exhibits detail the connections between astronomy, geology, weather, climate, ecology, and paleontology to form the beautiful landscape we call home. The story of AMOS begins with one man’s extensive mineral collection. From personal mineral collection to full scale science museum, the story begins almost a century ago.

Burnham Colburn Quote

Colburn Earth Science Museum is the legacy of engineer and bank president Burnham Standish Colburn, who retired in the 1920s to Biltmore Forest near Asheville. Colburn moved to the area to be close to Western North Carolina’s rich mineral fields and the diverse specimens they held. In 1931, Burnham S. Colburn and his brother, William B. Colburn, helped found the Southern Appalachian Mineral Society. After Burnham S. Colburn died in 1959, the Colburn family shared many of Colburn’s specimens with S.A.M.S. so they could be displayed to the public. S.A.M.S. members added items from their own collections and, in July 1960, they opened the Burnham S. Colburn Memorial Museum on Coxe Avenue in Asheville.

In 1972, the museum relocated to the lower level of the Asheville Civic Center. The museum’s collections continued to grow, and in 1982, the museum became an independent nonprofit and changed its name to the Colburn Gem and Mineral Museum. In July 1992, the museum moved to the Pack Place Education, Arts and Science Center in downtown Asheville. The museum changed its name to the Colburn Earth Science Museum in 2002 to reflect its broadening mission and science-related exhibits.

In our new space we offer special events and educational programs in addition to the Museum’s exhibits and displays. Be a geologist in our Colburn Hall of Minerals, manipulate topography in real time with our Terra Box exhibit, dig for fossils and say hello to our Teratophoneus dinosaur skeleton, watch the waters of our French Broad River table change path as you uncover the ecologist inside you, and so much more at the Asheville Museum of Science!