Regional History Museum

The Regional History Museum invites you to experience the history of North Carolina's Central Coastal Region through artifacts, graphics, audios, videos, and touch-screen interactives. Follow the "River of Light" to explore five centuries of the region's history and learn more about the key forces that shaped its development.

When you enter the museum, you'll find yourself immersed in a forest, as you begin to explore "Environment" and the crucial role that geography, climate, and ecosystems have played in the history and development of the Central Coastal Region. Here you can discover how the modern landscape emerged over the millennia and how it continues to evolve; learn how Europeans surveyed and claimed the land on their arrival; browse the plant samples that explorer John Lawson collected here three centuries ago; and enjoy videos and interactive programs that explore the relationships between people and natural systems in this region over time.

Through the exhibits in the "Community" galleries, you'll encounter the diverse peoples who settled this region, learn about their lifestyles and cultural traditions, and listen to them reveal their experiences in their own words. The "Peopling of North Carolina" gallery will introduce you to the history, contributions, and interactions of the first Native Americans, early European explorers and settlers, and Africans brought as slaves to North Carolina. In "Family Life," you can explore the history of regional foodways; the varied experiences of women, children, and free and enslaved people of color; and the ways in which one local family recorded its own history over the decades. "Culture and Society" explores how recreation, celebration, and education enriched daily life, while "Institutions" reveals the role of churches, philanthropic organizations, schools, and government in shaping society and community. Throughout, you'll hear the diverse voices of this region, through oral histories of former residents of the African-American community of James City, recordings of tunes once popular in 18th- and 19th-century New Bern, and a video of the song and dance a Jonkonnu celebration.

In Work, you'll learn how the major industries that have defined the economy of the Central Coastal Region waxed and waned over time in response to natural resources, the availability of labor, and changes in technology. You can explore how the production of naval stores (like turpentine, rosin, and tar), commercial fi shing, agriculture, and the timber industry both exploited and devastated the region's natural abundance. You'll learn about the ingenuity of local entrepreneurs like Pepsi-Cola inventor Caleb Bradham, photographer Bayard Wootten, and barber John Carruthers Stanly; the artistry and creativity of urban artisans like silversmith Freeman Woods; and the stamina and skill that the women of this region, both free and enslaved, brought to domestic work. And you'll discover how the region's enslaved peoples sought to shape and control their own lives even as they shaped the industries in which they labored.

You'll find many stories to uncover and many voices to listen to in the Regional History Museum.