Who We Are | Museum of Life and Science
Today: 9:00 AM - 5:00 PM

Who We Are

Moments of wonder for a lifetime of learning

Our mission is to create a place of lifelong learning where people of all ages embrace science as a way of knowing about themselves, their community, and their world. 

Located less than five miles from downtown Durham, the Museum of Life and Science is one of North Carolina’s top family destinations. Situated on 84 acres, our interactive science park includes a two-story science center, one of the largest butterfly conservatories on the East Coast, and beautifully landscaped outdoor exhibits which are safe havens for rescued black bears, lemurs, and endangered red wolves. Other popular attractions include over 60 species of live animals, Dinosaur Trail, Ellerbe Creek Railway, and Into the Mist.

Thank you for your support!

The Museum of Life and Science is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. The Museum earns over 83% of our annual operating budget through membership, admission, fees, and contributions. Thank you for your patronage and support!

We are also grateful for ongoing public support from Durham County. Through this public/private partnership, the Museum will continue to serve our region and our State with distinctive and dynamic learning experiences.

Museum Executive Team

Barry Van Deman | President and CEO
(919) 220-5429 ext. 309

Tom Hill | Chief Financial Officer
(919) 220-5429 ext. 306 | tom.hill@lifeandscience.org

Roy Griffiths | Vice President for Exhibits and Planning
(919) 220-5429 ext. 369 | roy.griffiths@lifeandscience.org

Laurie Reinhardt | Vice President for Advancement
(919) 220-5429 ext. 317 | laurie.reinhardt@lifeandscience.org

Mitchell Sava | Vice President for Innovation and Engagement
(919) 220-5429 ext.328 | mitchell.sava@lifeandscience.org

Betsy Hall | Vice President for Guest Experiences
(919) 220-5429 ext. 343 | betsy.hall@lifeandscience.org

Janet Hoshour | Senior Director of Membership
(919) 220-5429 ext. 391 | janet.hoshour@lifeandscience.org

Matt Pusateri | Senior Director of Marketing
(919) 220-5429 ext. 390 | matt.pusateri@lifeandscience.org

History of the Museum of Life and Science

1946 | Durham's First Trail-Side Nature Center

In 1946, a group of dedicated volunteers began Durham, North Carolina's first trail-side nature center. Known as "The Children's Museum," the center flourished, and soon a collection began with minerals and dinosaur fossils. The fever of space exploration and astronauts who trained in nearby Chapel Hill motivated the search for an aerospace exhibit. A kind soul rented a truck to haul the now-famous landmark Mercury Redstone rocket from Alabama to its new home on Murray Avenue in Durham to grace the exterior of a burgeoning indoor/outdoor science park.

1970s | Expansion, Name Change

The 1970s marked a period of expansion that included a name change. Now called the North Carolina Museum of Life and Science, capital expansion included outdoor exhibits for large animals, expanded Aerospace and Geology exhibits, and the installation of the Ellerbe Creek Railway. The County of Durham appropriated operating funding for the first time in 1973 and the NC General Assembly provided capital support for facility improvements. 

1986 | Museum Master Plan

The development of a comprehensive Master Plan was the catalyst to a second major period of growth for the Museum. First, construction of an indoor Nature Center featuring live animals native to North Carolina was completed. In 1991, the Museum completed the Mercury Meeting Room, a temporary exhibit gallery, an expansion of the lobby and gift shop, new discovery rooms, and an additional 6,000 square feet of exhibit space. 1993 marked the completion of the Science and Technology Wing. This area now featured a range of programs in the natural and physical sciences and helped make the Museum one of the premier centers of informal science in the country. 

1998 | BioQuest Interactive Science Experience

Strategic plans resulted in the development of a two-phase interactive science experience dubbed BioQuest. This experience was proclaimed by the National Science Foundation as a "national model" for science centers and linking people with plants, animals, and interactive exhibits out-of-doors. 

BioQuest Phase 1: Magic Wings Butterfly House

Phase One began with the creation of a three-story tropical conservatory. Bringing visitors into intimate contact with exotic butterflies in a tropical indoor environment, the facility also supports over 200 tropical plant varieties. One of the largest butterfly houses in the Southeast, the 5,000-square-foot tropical conservatory is encased with an addition 13,000 square feet of learning labs and the Bayer CropScience Insectarium which officially opened in March 2000. 

BioQuest Phase 2: Explore the Wild, Catch the Wind, Dinosaur Trail

Phase Two of this expansion included Explore the Wild, Catch the Wind, and the return of the Museum's popular Dinosaur Trail. The National Science Foundation validated the quality of this one-of-a-kind outdoor learning experience with a $2 million dollar grant. The people of Durham County offered resounding support for this project with over $11 million in bond funding. Explore the Wild opened in 2006, and Catch the Wind opened in 2007. The new Dinosaur Trail opened in 2009 thanks to private support of over $800,000 to supplement the $675,000 secured in Durham County bond funds. 

Board of Directors

Jordan Clark | Chair | Business Banking Team Lead – SunTrust Bank

Charlie Moore | Vice Chair | Retired – Wealth Management Executive

Sheronda Jeffries | Past Chair | TL9000 Program Manager - Cisco

Sanyin Siang | Secretary | Executive Director of the Fuqua/Coach K Center on Leadership Ethics – Duke University

Jim Erlinger | Treasurer | Former EVP – Quintiles, Inc., and NC Chamber Board Member


Phil Bartos, President & CEO – NarraSoft Corporation

Greg Boone, Chief Executive Officer – Blue Acorn iCi

Dr. Nakia Hardy, Deputy Superintendent – Durham Public Schools

James Hill, Commissioner – Durham County

Ian Huckabee, Chief Business Development Officer – Caktus Group

Jillian Johnson, Council Member at Large – City of Durham

Tasha Johnson, Assistant Director of Public Works – City of Durham

Geoff Keegan, Managing Partner – Creciente Partners Investment Management

Gina Loften, Chief Technology Officer of US Enterprise Services – Microsoft

Scott McGeary, Retired – Pediatrician & Innovator of Urgent Care

Jodi Miller, Deputy County Manager – Durham County

Joseph Pedersen, Partner – PBM Capital Investments

Dr. Melissa Rhodes, Chief Development Officer – Kriya Therapeutics

Gregg Stave, Consultant in Occupational Medicine & Corporate Health and Associate Consulting Professor – Duke University

Jon Stonehouse, President and CEO – BioCryst

Brian Tajlili, Vice President and Chief Actuary – Blue Cross Blue Shield of NC

Richard Thomas, Former Chief Information Officer – Quintiles

President and CEO:  Barry A. Van Deman

Members receive UNLIMITED admission all year long!