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The Story of North Carolina opens April 16

The N.C. Museum of History in Raleigh announces that Part One of its largest exhibition to date will open Saturday, April 16. The long-anticipated chronological exhibit The Story of North Carolina is so large that it will debut in two parts in 2011. Part One traces life in North Carolina from its earliest inhabitants through the 1830s. The final part of the 20,000-square-foot exhibit, opening with a grand celebration on Saturday, Nov. 5, tells the rest of the state’s story. Admission is free.

The Story of North Carolina is presented in an engaging and interactive format that will appeal to all ages,” says Ken Howard, Museum Director. “We believe museum visitors will come away with a deeper understanding and appreciation of the people and events that have shaped North Carolina.”

When the exhibit is complete, the N.C. Museum of History will be the only place in North Carolina with a permanent exhibit chronicling the history of the entire state.

Highlights in Part One include American Indian life, European settlement, piracy, and the American Revolution. North Carolina’s early history unfolds through fascinating artifacts, multimedia presentations, and hands-on activities throughout the exhibit. Walk through the state’s fourth-oldest house, which was built in 1742 in Pitt County. Step inside a reproduction of an American Indian dwelling, and enter an exhibit area resembling the hold of a 1700s pirate ship.

With so much to explore, perhaps brief descriptions of each gallery section will provide a glimpse of what is revealed in Part One of The Story of North Carolina.

An Ancient People ─ Begin your journey in a tranquil forest setting that introduces you to the state’s earliest inhabitants who lived here over 10,000 years ago. They left no written history, but the objects they used and left behind tell us about their lives. See stone tools dating from 12,000 to 1000 B.C.E., and learn about the nomadic lifestyles of ancient North Carolinians.

A section of The Story of North Carolina focuses on groups of immigrants to the Carolina colony during the mid-1700s. This exhibit cases features items that belonged to English immigrants.

Establishing Settlements – Become acquainted with the American Indians who established their communities here. Helping tell their stories are artifacts, such as a 3,000-year-old dugout canoe that Indians used for transportation and fishing in Lake Phelps in eastern North Carolina.

At this gallery’s centerpiece is a reproduction of a typical Piedmont Siouan home. Go inside the dome-shaped dwelling to see a video that explains how life changed for Indians after the arrival of Europeans to North Carolina.

Learn about the first European explorers who came to Carolina and the first English colonists who attempted to settle here. On view, a 1583 English sixpence coin found on Roanoke Island in 1990 testifies to the presence of Sir Walter Raleigh’s English expeditions.

A Rough Frontier ─ Settlers endured political instability, rebellion and Indian wars during the colony’s earliest decades. Carolina also became known as a haven for pirates, luring the most notorious of all ─ Blackbeard, also known as Edward Thatch or Teach.

Walk the wooden floors of the hold of a pirate ship to see a cannon, pewter plate, gold flakes and other items recovered from the shipwreck that is Blackbeard’s flagship, Queen Anne’s Revenge. The shipwreck was discovered at Beaufort Inlet in 1996.

Building Community ─ Immigrants poured into the Carolina colony during the mid-1700s. English, German, Scots-Irish, Africans and Highland Scots brought their own customs and foods with them. As these newcomers and native Indian groups interacted, the colony began to form a distinct identity. Exhibit items, ranging from a Gaelic Bible (Highland Scots) to a painted blanket chest (Germany), reflect the cultural traditions of each group.

Unrest and Revolution ─ Political conflict engulfed the royal colony as its citizens disagreed about North Carolina’s role in the American War for Independence. Opposition to British taxation brought about the famous “Edenton Tea Party” in 1774, when 51 Edenton women pledged not to buy British tea and other goods. On exhibit are two tea caddies and a punch bowl associated with this pivotal event.

Several key battles in the state led to eventual victory in the American Revolution. See objects owned by North Carolina soldiers, and watch the video “Revolution!”

Forging a New Nation ─ North Carolina officially became the 12th state on Nov. 21, 1789. On exhibit are American symbols, such as flags and eagles, that North Carolinians used to express their new national identity.

Providing for Family ─ Most North Carolinians lived on small farms during the 1800s. Step inside the restored two-room house that carpenter Solomon Robson built in Pitt County in 1742, and learn about the lifestyles of many farm families before the Civil War.

Nearby, hands-on activities give you a chance to experience farm chores. For example, you can “milk” Buttercup the cow or feel the weight of a full water bucket that would have been carried from the well to the farmhouse.

“Visitors will be able to continue their journey through the 1800s in November,” says RaeLana Poteat, Curator of Political and Social History. “The second part of the exhibit begins with an interactive map explaining improvements in transportation, education, and agriculture; and then addresses slavery and antebellum society.” Part Two will also chronicle such subjects as the Civil War, the rise of industry, the Great Depression, and the two World Wars.

These descriptions of Part One only skim the surface of North Carolina’s early history. Visit the N.C. Museum of History to explore the rest . . . chapter by chapter.

For more information call 919-807-7900 or access or Facebook®. The museum is located at 5 E. Edenton Street, across from the State Capitol. Parking is available in the lot across Wilmington Street.

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