Museums serve as outlets to travel to the past, capture the present, and invent the future. Interactive experiences spanning interests in science, history, art, and beyond connect visitors through shared education and entertainment. Here are 9 destinations for timeless exploration at North Carolina's museums.
Its mission to preserve and present the state's past has led the North Carolina Museum of History to regularly house more than 150,000 artifacts in collections from six centuries. Rotating exhibits showcasing the works of local and national artists encapsulate the landscape of the state as well as its arduous social development. And the stories they tell extend into the Raleigh area. Statues of early North Carolina individuals modeled after forensically reconstructed archaeological remains stand outdoors to greet visitors as the individuals once did.
Downtown Chapel Hill is home to the Ackland Art Museum and its permanent collection of thousands of works. The museum hosts a wide variety of drawings, photographs, and prints along with European masterworks, 20th century and contemporary art, local pottery, and North Carolina's collections of Asian art. To bring even more support to the area, the museum organizes several special exhibitions every year.
The interactive science park and two-story science center at the Museum of Life and Science will excite scientists old and new. Over 84 acres of outdoor exhibits and 60 species of live animals provide safe havens for black bears, red wolves, lemurs, and those curious to see them. The museum also maintains one of the largest butterfly conservatories on the East Coast and invites visitors to observe the creatures during butterfly releases.
Asheville may be known for its Great Smoky Mountains and vibrant art scene, but the city is also home to one of the world's few pinball museums. Visitors at the Asheville Pinball Museum can play dozens of vintage machines and purchase their own to play pinball at home. The space can be reserved past regular visiting hours for private parties so the game doesn't have to end.
Fayetteville's Airborne & Special Operations Museum is a place to honor the heroic feats of the airborne and special operations troops who have contributed to protecting the nation. Owned by the U.S. Army, the museum contains hundreds of wartime artifacts and permanent exhibits with topics including World War II, Korea and the Cold War, and Vietnam. In the Reflection Garden, visitors can contemplate the past and reflect on the efforts of others.
The most-visited museum in the state, the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences focuses on research, life-long education, and community engagement. Permanent exhibits located next to professional research facilities allow for visitors to touch the bones of a Right Whale and come face-to-face with extinct creatures. Surrounded by interactive models, dioramas, and theaters, the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences is a place of discovery for people of all ages.
To draw interest in science, technology, and history from hands-on learning is the goal of Wilson's Imagination Station Science & History Museum. An illuminated six-foot sphere illustrates properties of earth science and allows visitors to hold the world in their hands on the first floor. The museum also has a live animal collection located on the second floor of the building. A museum dedicated to the Coastal Plain can be found on the third floor.
The largest museum art park in the country belongs to the North Carolina Museum of Art. One hundred and sixty-four acres of outdoor area surrounded the museum's interior of work from the Italian Renaissance to the 19th century. Permanent collections include Egyptian funerary art, sculptures and painted vases from ancient Greece and Rome, and Jewish ceremonial objects.
As part of the Division of State History Museums in the Office of Archives of the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources, the Mountain Gateway Museum provides public access to artifacts with local, regional, national, and international contexts. By teaching how North Carolina's past continues to affect the present, Mountain Gateway Museum explores how one state is part of global history.