Searching for an interesting way to spend a rainy afternoon with the family? The Cape Fear Museum of History and Science in Wilmington, North Carolina offers an entertaining and educational experience for visitors of all ages. Discover New Hanover County’s past and the developments which led to the creation of modern day Wilmington.
Created in 1898, the Cape Fear Museum of History and Science is the oldest museum of history in the state of North Carolina. The goal of the museum’s curator and staff is to preserve and share the rich and colorful past of this region of North Carolina’s coast for future generation to understand and enjoy. What began as a one-room museum manned by dedicated volunteers has grown into a multifaceted facility housing in excess of 50,000 artifacts, historical works and relics. The Cape Fear Museum of History and Science was built on the dream of a local women’s group, to share both the region’s culture and Civil War history. The group of women were a part of the recently formed Daughters of the Confederacy group. The building which housed the museum was first utilized as Wilmington’s Light Infantry Building.
A change of venue occurred during World War I, when the museum was relocated to the city of Raleigh. The New Hanover County Historical Commission worked for nearly a decade to have the museum’s collection returned to Wilmington. In the early 1930’s, a group of women once again made heritage preservation their cause, and began taking care of the museum. North Carolina Sorosis saw the collection thrive, adding a multitude of new artifacts and included more cultural and event oriented displays to the museum’s offerings.
The museum continued to grow, adding national and international works of art, science and history to the public collection. During the early 1960’s, the government of New Hanover County was able to help fund portions of the museum’s operational and maintenance needs. In 1977, the museum was turned over to the complete control of the county. The infusion of funds aided in the creation a professional full-time staff and more space for the Cape Fear Museum of History and Science exhibits and special events.
The Cape Fear Stories display area features interactive and hands-on exhibit which allow visitors to virtually explore how Lower Cape Fear life has evolved over centuries. The display showcases the integral role the region played in the development of the culture and commerce in North Carolina. Wander around the intricate three-dimensional models, photos and artifacts from the time Native Americans controlled the land to the close of the twentieth century.
Land of the Longleaf Pine focused on the forests of old, when Native Americans and explorers first encountered the Cape Fear region. Learn how early inhabitants made a living from the native Longleaf pine. Feel like you are taking part in a historical documentary as you browse along the “colonial streets” of Wilmington and look inside “stores” and along the “dock” where goods were delivered via sea going vessel. Discover everything you didn’t learn about the American Revolutionary War in school.
Maritime Pavilion extols the history of the Cape Fear River and the importance shipping played in the development and culture of the region. Step inside a skiff and imagine what life on the river was like 100 years ago.
Michael Jordan Discovery Gallery is an indoor played area which infuses the environmental offerings of the Cape Fear region into the climbing and crawling structures. Children can feed a Venus’ Flytrap plant, learn how to make a sand dune and climb inside a beaver lodge. The kids will have so much fun they will not even realize they are being educated. Explore the biospheres of the Lower Cape Fear region bottomlands, forest and waterways.
The Williston Auditorium exhibit the history f education in the Cape Fear region. The Williston school opened in the early 1860’s. From 1923 to 1968 the American Missionary Association’s learning program operated the school. The facility was high school in New Hanover County offering classes for African American students. The Williston High School Alumni Association has donated funds to the museum to maintain and grow the display.
Wilmington’ s Giant Ground Sloth exhibit offers visitors a chance to view the replica of the creature’s skeleton. The sloth lived on the land which became the city of Wilmington over one million years ago. The bones of the prehistoric sloth were unearthed by archeologist Randall Parkway in 1991.
The Cape Fear Museum of History and Science offers special feature exhibits throughout the year which focus of the heritage of the Cape Fear region. Past traveling exhibits have included a display focusing on the Atlantic Coast Line railroad company, Cape Fear beach movie outdoor theaters and ship treasures found on old or shipwrecked boats from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
Throughout the year the Cape Fear Museum of History and Science offers workshops for adults, heritage and cultural camps and learning sessions for children and hands-on camps for scout groups.
The Cape Fear Museum of History and Science is open seven days a week during summer months. From Labor Day to Memorial Day the museum is closed on Mondays. The Museum gift shop offers souvenirs, books and educational materials. A visit to the museum won’t break the budget, with ticket prices less than $10 per person. Discounts are offered for college students, senior citizens, children and members of the military.