IT'S OFFICIAL: TOTO isn't in Kansas anymore. The robot-like Totable Tornado Observatory, also known as TOTO, is one of the weather-measuring devices now on display at the National Weather Service's new Science and History Center in Silver Spring. Unlike Dorothy's little dog, this TOTO is designed to be carted into the path of a tornado. Heavy enough not to be swept off into the land of Oz, it remains on the ground, recording air pressure, temperature, humidity and wind speed and direction.

There are other modern meteorological instruments on display at the center. They include an automatic remote collector, designed to monitor weather and sea changes at faraway sites, as well as operating satellite and weather displays that show weather patterns both nationally and in the Washington area.

"The center was designed to acquaint the general public with the various missions of NOAA {the National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration}," says weather service director Elbert W. Friday Jr. "We're especially interested in stimulating scientic curiosity in children at an early age. Meteorology involves all the sciences -- mathematics, chemistry, physics -- and we've attempted to present this in an interesting way."

Kids will probably enjoy the weather message phone banks, satellite imagery and scale models of a NOAA hurricane hunter airplane and TIROS weather satellite. But older visitors will likely be attracted to a re-creation of the U.S. Weather Bureau's regional weather observation office in Cairo, Ill., as it appeared in 1891.

"The items in this exhibit aren't reproductions," Friday says. "The instruments, office furniture, typewriter and record books are all originals. They were actually used at Cairo, so it gives a good idea of the true operation of the office at the time."

Sure enough, an old barometer and magneto telephone hang on the wall, while a slide rule and books recording the flow of the Ohio River rest on a massive oak desk. Parted curtains reveal a window tricked up so that water drips down the outside panes of glass, simulating rain.

Press a button for a recorded message that gives a concise history of the weather service, along with choice tidbits of meteorological trivia. Sample: Thomas Jefferson took time out during debate on the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia to record the temperature (76 degrees) on July 4, 1776.

When you're all weathered out, walk across the courtyard to the lobby of the Metro I Building for a peek at NOAA's oceanographic and fisheries science and history exhibit area. Objects on display include diving gear in current use and a model of Aquarius, a scientific diving habitat located in 50 feet of water off St. Croix in the Virgin Islands. You'll also find exquisitely detailed models of the U.S. Coast Guard Geodetic Survey ship Patterson, circa 1882, and the Helen B. Thomas, a Grand Banks schooner launched in 1902.

Another glass case features examples of products illegally manufactured from endangered marine mammals.

NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE SCIENCE AND HISTORY CENTER -- Metro II Building, 1325 East-West Hwy., Silver Spring. 301/427-7622 or 301/427-7133. Open 8:30 to 5 Monday through Friday. Admission is free. Metro: Silver Spring.

Bill Sautter last wrote for Weekend about the National Archives.