North Carolina Museum of History

North Carolina Museum of History

North Carolina Museum of History
North Carolina Museum of History is located in North Carolina
North Carolina Museum of History
Location within North Carolina
Established 5 December 1902 (as "Hall of History")[1]
Location Raleigh, NC
Type history museum
Visitors 288,800 (2013)
Director Ken Howard

An affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution,the North Carolina Museum of History is located in downtown Raleigh, North Carolina. Admission is free. Special programs include educational programs for children and families as well as craft demonstrations, music concerts, and other events for visitors and members. The Museum Shop features an assortment of North Carolina–made crafts and products. The museum is a part of the Division of State History Museums, Office of Archives and History, an agency of the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources.


Frederick Augustus Olds, known as the “father” of the North Carolina Museum of History, began collecting items from across North Carolina in the late 19th century. He eventually traversed all 100 counties, at least once, and acquired not only pieces of the past but also the stories associated with them—starting a philosophy that exists to this day at the museum: using stories to relate the past of North Carolina. On December 5, 1902, Olds merged his large private collection with the collection owned and displayed in a room of the State Museum (which has evolved into the modern-day North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences). The assortment of historical artifacts became known as the "Hall of History" and was opened to the public. The hall’s 37 cases contained items as various as a studded shoe buckle owned by James Iredell to the death mask of Confederate General Robert Hoke. (To honor Olds, a metal statue has been erected on the steps of the current Museum of History building to greet visitors; he is joined by a statue of craftsman Thomas Day and a representative Sauratown woman.)

The North Carolina Historical Commission took over the Hall of History in 1914 and moved the collection to the Ruffin Building on the southwest corner of Union Square (where the North Carolina State Capitol sits); however, the hall quickly outgrew that space. The hall was then moved, in 1939, to the Education Building, across from the northwest corner of Union Square, where an area was specifically designed to accommodate both artifacts and exhibits. On July 1, 1965, with continued growth of the collection, need for expanded exhibit space, and an increase in staff, the Hall of History was renamed the North Carolina Museum of History and was identified to become a part of the new Archives and History/State Library Building. That move took place in 1968.[2]

On June 16, 1988, the State of North Carolina broke ground at 5 East Edenton Street to begin construction of a new, dedicated building for the museum. Located in part of the block between the State Capitol and the Legislative Building, the museum’s permanent home was completed in 1994 for more than $29 million.[3] The new building features a research library, classrooms, a 315-seat auditorium, a design shop, conservation labs, artifact storage space, offices, the Museum Shop, and 55,000 square feet (5,100 m2) of exhibit space on four floors. [4]


Upcoming exhibits

Upcoming exhibits

Ongoing/Permanent exhibits

  • The Story of North Carolina :: Uses buildings, environments, artifacts, and interactives to trace 14,000 years of life in North Carolina, from the area’s first inhabitants through the 20th century. More information >
  • History in Every Direction :: Tar Heel Junior Historian Association Discovery Gallery: Encourages visitors (especially students in grades 4–12 who participate in the Tar Heel Junior Historian Association) to discover and share state and local history through fun and informative hands-on activities, along with award-winning student projects from all across North Carolina. More information >
  • History of the Harvest :: Introduces the state’s agricultural past—from the three sisters planting technique in the American Indian garden to historical cash crops, like tobacco and cotton, and modern-day cash crops, like sweet potatoes and peanuts, to state symbols—in 13 garden beds that run along Bicentennial Plaza in front of the museum. More information >
  • A Call to Arms :: Looks at North Carolina’s military heritage from the American Revolution to the Iraq War. Over the past few years, this gallery featured North Carolina and the Civil War, a special three-part series that commemorated the 150th anniversary of the war with The Breaking Storm, 1861–1862; The Raging Storm, 1863; and The Bitter End, 1864–1865. More information >
  • David Marshall "Carbine" Williams :: The workshop of this famous inventor contains examples of his weapon innovations and information about his life. More information >
  • The North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame :: The hall of fame (see below for more information), which celebrated its 50th year in 2013, employs audio and video components to and interactive biographies, as well as a broad selection of sports memorabilia.[5]

A sample of major past exhibits

  • For Us the Living: The Civil War Art of Mort Künstler :: Künstler’s first museum show since 1995, this 2013 exhibit featured 33 original oil paintings and the unveiling of Capitol Farewell, one of his latest. More information >
  • Formed, Fired, and Finished: Art Pottery from the James-Farmer Collection :: After cheaper, mass-produced containers replaced utilitarian pottery in the early 20th century, North Carolina’s potters began transitioning to art pottery. This case exhibit showed off several dozen examples of that transition and its results. More information >
  • Greetings from North Carolina :: This panel exhibit highlighted the history of tourism in the Tar Heel State with enlarged reproductions of postcards from all across the state.
  • In Search of a New Deal: Images of North Carolina, 1935–1941 :: Featured 50 Farm Security Administration photographs that documented daily life in rural North Carolina during the Great Depression, providing a compelling and diverse portrait of a state coping with tough economic times. The exhibit, originally produced by Historic Oak View County Park in Raleigh, was supplemented with Depression-era artifacts from the Museum of History collection.
  • Leading the State: North Carolina’s Governors: Looked at how candidates have campaigned for governor, how North Carolinians have cast their ballots, and how the office of North Carolina "governor" has changed over time—along with the role of first spouse.
  • Museum Sleuths: Whatchamacallits and Thingamajigs :: This exhibit featured 21 unusual objects from the museum’s collection that befuddled and bemused.
  • Mysteries of the Lost Colony :: Featured several original engravings by Theodor de Bry and a variety of artifacts from the late 1500s; developed as a companion exhibit to the British Museum's fragile and priceless collection of original John White paintings (made in connection with the 1585–1586 Roanoke expedition) that came to Raleigh in A New World: England's First View of America—this was only the second time the collection had left the British Museum.
  • Real to Reel: The Making of Gone with the Wind :: A focus on the production of the classic 1939 film, with authentic memorabilia including costumes, props, photographs, screen tests, and Vivien Leigh’s Academy Award.
  • Stagville: Black & White :: The intimate photographs of this exhibit showcased the natural beauty of Stagville Plantation and Historic Stagville State Historic Site while capturing the spirit of those who once lived there—enslaved and free—and connecting the past with the present. More information >
  • “Turn the Radio On”: Carolina Bluegrass :: In celebration of Raleigh’s first International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) annual World of Bluegrass convention in September, this lobby exhibit—and a slate of accompanying educational programs and performances—showed that bluegrass music has its roots in the Carolinas as much as anywhere else.
  • Workboats of Core Sound :: This photography exhibit showcased the work of Lawrence S. Earley, an author, photographer and former editor of Wildlife in North Carolina. Earley’s black-and-white images, combined with excerpts of interviews with fishermen, boatbuilders, and other Core Sound residents, tell the history and culture of fishing communities in “down east” North Carolina.

Online exhibits

  • A Change Is Gonna Come: Black, Indian, and White Voices for Racial Equality
  • Health and Healing Experiences in North Carolina
  • North Carolina and the Civil War

Tar Heel Junior Historian Association

One of the North Carolina Museum of History’s best known outreach programs is the Tar Heel Junior Historian Association (THJHA).[6] THJHA inspires and empowers North Carolina students to discover local and state history—in an active, hands-on way. The association also encourages junior historians to share what they learn, often through projects that are planned and completed by students. Many projects are entered into contests and shared during the THJHA Annual Convention in Raleigh. Award-winning projects often become a part of the association’s gallery, History in Every Direction.

Authorized by the North Carolina General Assembly in 1953, THJHA is a network of free clubs across the state, with members in grades 4–12 and at least one adult adviser. Clubs may be sponsored by public, private, or home schools, or by other organizations such as museums and historical societies, 4-H and FFA groups, or scouting programs. Clubs can be any size, from one student and one adviser to hundreds of students and several advisers. THJHA staff at the museum provide support and resources that include a semiannual student magazine Tar Heel Junior Historian.

North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame

North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame Gallery

The North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame is housed in a 4,000 square feet (370 m2) permanent exhibit gallery on the third floor of the North Carolina Museum of History. The hall of fame was originally established in February 1963, with support from the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce, "celebrates excellence and extraordinary achievement in athletics [and] commemorates and memorializes exceptional accomplishments in or connected with the world of sports who have brought recognition and esteem to themselves and to the State of North Carolina."[7] The hall inducted its first class of five members in December of that year and, as of 2010, numbered 274 members.

Since the beginning, inductees, who are elected annually, have donated mementos of their sports careers to the hall of fame. In 1969 officials at the Charlotte Coliseum agreed to display these objects in the corridor of the building, hoping to eventually expand the building to include a room dedicated to the hall. The expansion never occurred, however, and in 1981 the objects were moved to the North Carolina Museum of History, where a dedicated gallery was a part of the new museum’s plans.

Mementos on display in the gallery include Richard Petty’s race car, North Carolina State University basketball coach Jim Valvano’s warm-up suit, Arnold Palmer’s Ryder Cup golf bag, Meadowlark Lemon’s Harlem Globetrotters basketball uniform, North Carolina State University coach Kay Yow’s Olympic team basketball, and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill football star Charlie "Choo Choo" Justice’s jersey.

Basketball great and Wilmington, North Carolina, native Michael Jordan was conspicuously missing from the hall for many years because, even though he had been selected for induction, he had been "unable" to attend the required induction banquet.[8] In 2010, it was announced that Jordan would be formally inducted to the hall.[9] Uniquely, his ceremony was held at halftime of a Charlotte Bobcats game (Jordan owns the NBA team).[10]

North Carolina Museum of History Associates

The North Carolina Museum of History Associates is the membership arm of the North Carolina Museum of History.[11] The group assists the museum primarily with daily expenses related to acquisitions, publications, and promotional efforts. As state government funds have been reduced over recent years, the importance of member support has grown—in fact, membership revenue is now central to the museum’s effort to maintain free programming.

In addition to the museum in Raleigh, the Museum of History Associates provide funding and support services to the regional museums of the Division of State History Museums:

  • Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum, Hatteras
  • Museum of the Albemarle, Elizabeth City
  • Museum of the Cape Fear Historical Complex, Fayetteville
  • Mountain Gateway Museum and Heritage Center, Old Fort
  • North Carolina Maritime Museums, Southport and Beaufort

The Associates also work throughout the state to raise awareness of the museum and its efforts by hosting Museum Days events occasionally in different locations.

North Carolina Museum of History Foundation

The North Carolina Museum of History Foundation[12] raises funds that enable the Museum of History and the Division of State History Museums (an agency of the Office of Archives and History, North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources) to lead the state in preserving and interpreting the history and culture of the Tar Heel State. The Foundation primarily collects and distributes funds for ongoing efforts related to

  • exhibitions,
  • educational programming,
  • artifact acquisition, and
  • object conservation.

The Foundation also supports needed capital improvements and directs funds toward building an endowment for future generations. The Foundation is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization; contributions are tax deductible to the fullest extent allowed by law.

Other museums in North Carolina's Division of State History Museums


  1. ^ "Museum History". NCMoH. 
  2. ^ "North Carolina Museum of History homepage". Retrieved 2014-08-09. 
  3. ^ "History on the Mall in Raleigh." Cambridge Seven Associates. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Sept. 2013.
  4. ^ "North Carolina Museum of History: About us". Retrieved 2012-06-23. 
  5. ^ "NC Sports Hall of Fame". 2012-04-25. Retrieved 2012-06-23. 
  6. ^ "Learn > Tar Heel Junior Historian Association". North Carolina Museum of History. Retrieved 2014-08-09. 
  7. ^ "About Us". NC Sports Hall of Fame. Retrieved 2014-08-09. 
  8. ^ "FAQ". North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame. 
  9. ^ Michael Jordan joining N.C. Hall, ESPN, Retrieved on December 1, 2010
  10. ^ Green, Ron (2010-12-15). "News & Observer: Jordan shares N.C. hall walk with Dean Smith". Retrieved 2012-06-23. 
  11. ^
  12. ^

External links

  • Official website
  • Museum of History A Place & Timeblog, and Facebook page
  • Museum of History Associates (membership)
  • Museum of History Foundation (contributions)
  • North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources official website
  • Capital Area Visitor Services