Plan to Visit Treasures of Carolina: Stories from the State Archives of North Carolina

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[This blog post was written by Rebecca Lowe. Rebecca Lowe earned her master’s degree in public history from North Carolina State University, and is a member of the State Archives’ Exhibit Marketing Team.]

What do you think of when you hear the word “treasure”? Many people think of items like gold, jewels, or antiques. The State Archives of North Carolina presents an altogether different concept of treasure in the exhibit Treasures of Carolina: Stories from the State Archives, to open October 24 at the North Carolina Museum of History in Raleigh. Treasures, because these documents, records, maps, photographs, and other media are unique, irreplaceable, and sometimes quite valuable monetarily; Stories, because each item reveals the characters, narrative, and happenstance of how that document came to be and the significance of it to North Carolina’s history and culture.

Visitors will learn about the State Archives’ role in preserving materials that provide evidence of rights and liberties, document government actions and operations, and chronicle our state’s history and culture. A companion catalog with detailed information about the items on display will be available for purchase. It will also include additional items not showcased in the exhibit.

What is on display? The exhibit features both private collections and public records that supplement each other to reveal the nuances of our state’s history. The will of Mary Forsten, the earliest recorded North Carolina will dating to 1665, demonstrates the rarity of a woman property owner in the 1600s; a 1903 African American publication responds to the challenge of restrictive voter registration laws; the handwritten petition for citizenship from Chang and Eng Bunker, the famous conjoined twins from Thailand, reveals changing demographics in North Carolina, and a letter from wife to husband during the Civil War asks him to name their infant daughter.  Other materials document the way handwriting has changed over the centuries, reveal how and why electronic records are preserved, and present the varied formats of photographs dating from the nineteenth century. The exhibit also contains voices of World War I soldiers recounting their war experiences, black and white film clips of the small town of Hillsborough in 1939, and a Union soldier’s sketchbook of scenes on Roanoke Island in 1862.

Hungry for more information about the documents? Beginning next week, this blog will feature a weekly post about one of the artifacts on display so you can learn about its history before you visit the real thing.

While some materials will be available throughout the duration of the exhibit, some of the rarest items will be displayed only for a short time. These materials include:

  • October 24 – October 27: North Carolina’s copy of the Bill of Rights;
  • October 28 – February 7: 11th Amendment and James Iredell’s diary;
  • February 8 – February 14: 1663 Carolina Charter;
  • February 15 – June 14: Signature documents including items signed by George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, Albert Einstein, and Buckminster Fuller, among others.
  • June 15—June 19: North Carolina’s copy of the Bill of Rights

Plan to attend History `a la Carte on November 18 at the Museum of History from 12:00-1:00 p.m. when an Archives’ staff member will present, “What Records Reveal: the Story behind Treasures of Carolina.”

This exhibit is sponsored by the Friends of the Archives and runs through June 19, 2016. Additional funding was provided by the N.C. Bar Association Foundation, the Raleigh Times, and Wells Fargo.

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