7 Stimulating Museums In The Carolinas
North and South Carolina are famous for excellent southern cooking, sites of vivid Civil War history, and miles of beaches at places including Cherry Grove, Ocracoke Island, and Nags Head. Additionally, these states are home to many compelling museums that tell the stories of various towns and cities, art, musical instruments, and more. This list, in no particular order, highlights several institutions that should be on anyone's bucket list when visiting the Carolinas.
The #1 entry is the Greensboro History Museum, located in the eponymous city of North Carolina. Its goal is to collect stories and information on the Piedmont region of the state, and connect people to that history through exhibits, educational programs, and community dialogue.
The Museum's collection documents the many different nationalities and people who impacted the county's history, such as Germans, African Americans, and Quakers. It also displays archives and artifacts related to prominent residents' lives, including First Lady Dolley Madison, author O. Henry, and educator Charles Henry Moore.
Coming in at #2, we have the Upcountry History Museum of Furman University. Located in Greenville, South Carolina, it focuses on raising public awareness of the region's past. In the permanent exhibitions, visitors can learn about Upcountry's geography and its early inhabitants, the textile economy, and more.
The Museum is able to arrange special programming for kids, such as school field trips, where students can meet with education staff and trained docents to learn about historical topics. For younger learners, it offers Toddler Story Time. The institution also produces special exhibitions throughout the year, such as "Guaranteeing Her Right… The 19th Amendment, Women and the Right to Vote."
Next up, at #3, we present Tryon Palace, site of the residence of the pre-Revolutionary British Governor, as well as other historic houses, gardens, and the North Carolina History Center. Located in New Bern, the state's first colonial capital, the institution offers costumed guides, working craftspeople, character interpreters, and hands-on learning in the Pepsi Family Center, all to help this particular story of American history come to life.
At the North Carolina History Center, the Duffy Exhibition Gallery showcases traveling exhibits, items from the Tryon Palace collection, local art shows, and special events throughout the year. Schools can book class visits to the historic site; tours can be catered to a particular curriculum, specializing in colonial America, 19th-century life, or cooking.
For #4, we have the City of Raleigh Museum. This institution collects and cares for artifacts, curates exhibits, and provides educational programming that highlights and interprets the city's history and heritage. The COR Museum's mascot, Sir Sammy the Squirrel, has an interactive exhibit that teaches children how trees in the City of Oaks can reveal secrets about the past.
The Dix Hill exhibit explores the long history and future of Raleigh’s park of the same name. There's also an exhibit centered on ideas of democracy and local city politics in North Carolina. Using research from city council minutes and artifacts from the Museum’s collection, this showcase highlights the citizen's role in law-making.
The #5 entry is the North Carolina Museum of Art. Based in Raleigh, it offers a permanent collection spanning more than 5,000 years. It also boasts various exhibitions and public programs, an amphitheater for outdoor performances, and the nation’s largest museum park, which features 164 acres of trails and open space containing many artworks.
There are a number of public tour options available, including ones for adults and ones for school children. Teachers can select a theme related to a North Carolina curriculum, or choose a highlights tour for the class. Young adults can apply to become a part of the Teen Arts Council, through which participants become digital ambassadors for the Museum.
Up next, at #6, is Sigal Music Museum, formerly Carolina Music Museum. Aiming to preserve and celebrate the diverse stories of musical instruments from across the globe, it provides educational programs, exhibits, and performances by well-known classical artists. Based in Greenville, South Carolina, it is home to a special collection of claviers, featuring more than 40 English, European, and American pianos and harpsichords dating from 1570 to 1845.
Founded by Steve Bichel, Beth Lee, and Tom Strange, the Museum's exhibits include "Trumpets Weird And Wonderful," which shares information on over 600 historic brass instruments from the Joe and Joella Utley Collection, formerly housed in Spartanburg. This institution has been featured by numerous press outlets, including USA Today.
Rounding out our list, at #7 is Drayton Hall. Founded in 1738, it features the nation's earliest example of fully executed Palladian architecture, and is the oldest preserved plantation house in America still open to the public. The Lenhardt Garden, located in the Sally Rearhard Visitors Center, is a semi-formal courtyard space situated under a historic oak tree, likely planted around 1800.
The Gates Gallery includes rotating exhibitions of decorative arts objects that once belonged to the Drayton family, archaeological artifacts related to the estate and its inhabitants, and archival materials and architectural fragments. Drayton Hall has been featured in Architectural Digest and myriad other media outlets.