For the next three years, Raleigh will be home to the International Bluegrass Music Association annual World of Bluegrass convention. I am one of the speakers in the NC Museum of History programs to welcome IBMA:
Tuesday, September 24
1–3 p.m. North Carolina is the Banjo State, with Bob Carlin
5–7 p.m. Bluegrass in North Carolina, with Tommy Edwards
Wednesday, September 25
1–3 p.m. Bluegrass Music: How North Carolinians Have Contributed, with Art Menius
5–7 p.m. The Earl Scruggs Center: Music and Stories from the American South
Thursday, September 26
1–3 p.m. The Story of Bluegrass and Raleigh’s Contribution, with Ron Raxter
5–7 p.m. Bluegrass Jam, with Pinecone
Friday, September 27
1–3 p.m. [Topic TBD*], with Wayne Martin
5–7 p.m. Gibson, Scruggs, and the Three-Finger Style, with Jim Mills
When I was little, The NC Museum of History was in WPA institutional building that mostly housed the state department of Education – “EDVCATION” in the granite lettering outside. Opened in 1902, “The Hall of History” and little changed since moved there in 1939, snaked through the first floor with permanent displays focusing on transportation, weapons, and household furnishings of rich white people. The latter appeared to have been 90% of the state’s population before the War, after which it dropped to 80%. I learned a lot about how our heroes fought against cruel military occupation of NC by the United States. Generations of school bus drivers struggled to find the Hall of History since the maps they were sent had South at the top and north oriented to the bottom.
By the time I was a young public historian at NC Dept of Cultural Resources (a product of the standardization of federal and state cultural bureaucracies during the 1960s and 1970s), an equally static history museum telling a more modern story, albeit with many of the same artifacts, occupied the east wing of our 1968 Archives & History/State Library edifice between the 1964 Legislative Building, in which the General Assembly meets rather than the 19th Capitol building in the center of Raleigh, and the gingerbread Victorian Governor’s Mansion. I always imagined the Addams Family as our first family. In 2013 some would say…..
The current NC Museum of History opened in 1994 between the Legislative Building and the historic State Capitol (walk out of the Convention Center on the Fayetteville Street side and look left. Can’t miss it.) The new museum has a research library, a variety of classroom spaces, and a large and well-equipped, 315-seat auditorium. Large gallery spaces total 55,000 square feet, nearly four times the exhibit area available in the old building. Design shops, storage areas for over 250,000 items, and conservation labs are now all under one roof.
The NC Arts Council, whose staff is being slashed by the legislature, occupies the previous museum space. Five museums in 92 years doesn’t seem like the best long term planning for growth.