Tag Archives: North Carolina

So you want to have a national heritage area

There’s an interesting controversy brewing in the Carolinas.

Advocates in North and South Carolina are fighting to have a region made up of 58 counties recognized as a national heritage area, specifically focusing on the contributions made by the Carolinas during the American Revolution.

The national heritage designation is a way to celebrate, protect and preserve what makes a region unique and can be used as a tool for tourism.

Examples of places with a national heritage designation include the Tennessee Civil War National Heritage Area and Iowa’s Silo and Smokestacks National Heritage Area.

Sounds like a good idea to me.  So what’s the problem?

A recent National Park Service study was completed, and the counties were told they did not meet the necessary criteria for the designation.

In the published results, one of the reasons cited was that there is a lack of distinctive cultural traditions in North and South Carolina from the 18th century that have carried over into today’s everyday life. These distinctive characteristics must be readily apparent to an outside observer.

What, I wonder, would constitute a readily apparent and distinctive cultural tradition from the eighteenth century?  Knee breeches?  Smallpox inoculation?

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A group of reenactors wanted to do some good

…and rather than put up a flagpole, commission a statue, or get politicians to issue a resolution, they did something that actually needed doing.

RALEIGH — A coat worn by a North Carolina officer who was badly wounded at the Battle of Gettysburg has been stowed away at the N.C. Museum of History since 1914.

This week, a group of Civil War re-enactors will donate $10,000 to the museum so Collett Leventhorpe’s coat can be preserved and put on display for the first time.

The 1st North Carolina Volunteers of the 11th Regiment has already donated more than $18,000 toward preserving artifacts from the war to be featured at the museum. Among them was the battle flag Leventhorpe carried at Gettysburg, now on display at the museum.

After the flag, the 1st/11th re-enactors group, which has about 90 members from eastern and central North Carolina and Virginia, wanted to donate money for another project.

That rare conjunction of traits—not only the desire to do something and the gumption to see it through, but the wisdom to undertake something worthwhile.  Too bad there aren’t more folks like that.

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Filed under Civil War, Museums and Historic Sites

A few miscellaneous Rev War items

First off, happy Cowpens anniversary.  Here’s a report on this year’s festivities.

While we’re on the subject of the war in the Carolinas, the marker for Pyle’s Defeat (or “Pyle’s Hacking Match,” as it’s more colorfully known) apparently needs some major revision.

During last night’s Republican debate, Newt Gingrich invoked Old Hickory’s backcountry boyhood: “We’re in South Carolina. South Carolina in the Revolutionary War had a young 13-year-old named Andrew Jackson. He was sabred by a British officer and wore a scar his whole life. Andrew Jackson had a pretty clear-cut idea about America’s enemies: Kill them.”  That sums up Jackson’s attitude pretty accurately, I think, although throwing in the anecdote seems a little gratuitous.

Finally, Richard Ketchum, author of a number of popular books on the War for Independence, passed away last week.

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State senator wonders whether historic site employees are “sitting around not doing anything”

Historic sites that are subdivisions of larger organizations or institutions are often left languishing due to the utter neglect of the powers that be.  But there is something far, far worse than the utter neglect of the powers that be, and that’s the attention of the powers that be.

As a case in point, consider a recent news item out of North Carolina.

RALEIGH — The North Carolina legislature is conducting a sweeping review of the state’s attractions – from museums and parks to the state fair and the zoo – to determine whether they should be combined under a single agency and whether their staffing, hours and admissions fees should be adjusted.

The legislature’s study, which is scheduled to be released in March, follows budget cuts this summer that forced some state-owned tourist attractions to cut hours or special programs, lay off workers and increase admission fees. It has many working at the sites worried about their future.

Sounds pretty ominous, but the prospect of laying off a bunch of public employees actually has State Sen. Andrew Brock kind of excited.  I’ll let him tell it.

“I’m kind of excited about the evaluation of some our museums and sites,” said Brock, who is chairman of the Senate appropriations committee overseeing general government.

See there?

Now, don’t get the impression that they’re targeting all the fine cultural attractions North Carolina has to offer.  Some of them are doing a—what’s the word he’s looking for here…

Brock said that while some attractions “are doing a fantastic job” and deserve more state funding…

That’s it!  Some of them are doing a fantastic job, just absolutely fantastic, but…

…while some attractions “are doing a fantastic job” and deserve more state funding, there are others that need closer scrutiny.

“We’ve got some others, you’ve got 100 people on staff, you’ve got few visitors and only a few volunteers,” Brock said. “Are people sitting around not doing anything? Are we paying for positions and nobody has a real job? Those are the ones we will have to take a good hard look at. Some of them, to be honest, we have to make sure it was not political patronage over the years.”

Can’t have people on the payroll just “sitting around not doing anything.”  Can’t fund something that isn’t “a real job.”  Not that Brock is disrespecting state employees, or anything.

Brock cited Tryon Palace in New Bern, a pet of Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue, as an example of a historic site that might be overstaffed. The palace is a replica of the home of Royal Governor William Tryon, originally built in 1770. The palace, which recently opened a history center, drew 172,264 people during the fiscal year ending June 30. (Department of Cultural Resources officials said the Tryon Palace complex, which includes 41 buildings and had 85 employees when the history center opened in October 2010, now has 59 employees. That number is scheduled to be reduced to 31 employees unless funding is restored in the next budget year.

Right.  Some governor wants to reward a guy who worked on his campaign, so he gets him a job as a part-time tour guide at a historic house museum.  I’m sure that’s what happened.

Among other things, Brock said, the study will look at whether some sites should have shorter or different hours, should charge higher fees and should offer gifts and other services to defray costs.

“We are not going to get rid of our history,” Brock said. “But we may limit their hours, how many days they’re open and also look at their expenses while they are open.”

We’re not going to get rid of our history.  We might make it darn near impossible for people to get access to it, but we’re not going to get rid of it.

For now.

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A wider view from Tryon Palace

The New York Times has a piece on the recently constructed North Carolina History Center at New Bern.  It’s part of the same site that includes a reconstruction of Gov. William Tryon’s impressive eighteenth-century house.

What’s cool about the article is that it uses the center’s exhibits to explain some of the ways historic interpretation has changed over the years.  Rather than focusing exclusively on Tryon and those who sat with him atop the pinnacle of colonial society, the exhibits widen things out a little by examining the everyday lives of ordinary North Carolinians, the ways the environment shaped human history, and so on.  And, of course, the center employs all the latest gadgets in order to engage in its audience.

Check out the link to the center’s website in the article, too; it takes you to a short video where you can get a taste of the exhibits.

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Filed under Colonial America, Museums and Historic Sites

Tweeting the home front

LeRae Umfleet of the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources has set up a Twitter account and accompanying blog that will run throughout the Civil War Sesquicentennial.  Each tweet will be a snippet of first-person testimony from a Tar Heel State civilian who experienced the war on the home front, with a fuller excerpt in the matching blog entry.  Looks interesting.

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North Carolina is gearing up for the 150th

…and they’re pulling out all the stops.  Here’s a press release the good folks at the NCDCR passed along:

Preparations for the commemoration of the Sesquicentennial of the Civil War are underway with 150 programs, educational symposia and re-enactments already scheduled by the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources (www.ncculture.com). For the past year a team of Cultural Resources staff, operating with an experts advisory panel of leading historians, has planned events, lectures, exhibits and informational resources for commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War.

Activities for life-long learners, travelers, teachers and school children will feature the theme “North Carolina and the Civil War: Freedom, Sacrifice, Memory.”

News and information are available at www.nccivilwar150.com. A logo, designed by the Department of Cultural Resources, presents that theme against a sunburst image, based on the button worn by North Carolina soldiers, 1861-1865.

North Carolina’s planning comes as a similar national effort is underway. Several other states have established commissions or other boards to mark the anniversary. Keith Hardison, Director of the Division of State Historic Sites and Properties, and Michael Hill, Research Branch Supervisor, co-chair the North Carolina group.

In establishing the committee of researchers, archaeologists, librarians, preservationists, educators, exhibit designers and curators, Dr. Jeffrey J. Crow, Deputy Director of the N.C. Office of Archives and History, noted that the Department has long held a commitment to projects associated with the Civil War and that, during the anniversary, those efforts will intensify.

“We anticipate that interest in the Civil War will draw tens of thousands of travelers to North Carolina,” Crow said. “Because cultural and heritage tourists stay longer and spend more than typical travelers, the Sesquicentennial will provide an economic boost. The Civil War was the most critical moment in the nation’s history. Understanding the conflict’s effect on the life of the nation, its institutions, and its people remains as important today as it did 150 years ago.” The Battle of Bentonville 145th re-enactment held in April 2010 drew 50,000 visitors to the Johnston County location, for example.

The group will develop and execute a multiyear program of state-sponsored activities to commemorate, in an appropriate and historically accurate manner, the richness, diversity and significance of the state’s participation in and contributions to the American Civil War. Accordingly, the objective is to extend to North Carolinians and travelers an understanding of the complexity of the issues surrounding the war and to transform the interpretation of the events for a new generation, via a layered and interdisciplinary approach.

An ambitious three-part series of symposia is planned, with the first dedicated to “memory” taking place at the N.C. Museum of History in Raleigh on May 20, 2011. Following that, keeping with the theme, panels will be held at Winston-Salem State University in 2013 (timed to coincide with the anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation) around the topic of “freedom,” and in Wilmington in 2015 on the topic of “sacrifice.” Calls for papers will be forthcoming.

The NCCivilWar150 Web site (www.nccivilwar150.com) offers a concise overview with maps, graphics, an event calendar, digital records and text about North Carolina’s Civil War experience. It contains a timeline of the hundreds of military expeditions, affairs, skirmishes, actions, engagements, battles and other events that occurred in the Old North State during the war. Images of monuments from across North Carolina and a map feature illustrate where the monuments are located. State Archives will showcase relevant documents, such as letters regarding possible secession, that are gathered from its collection of more than 100 million maps, letters, and documents. Informative essays discuss North Carolina on the home front, slavery and the African American experience, reconstruction and other topics.

The Division of State Historic Sites and Properties (http://www.nchistoricsites.org/) is taking the lead with a new comprehensive education initiative related to the war. Thirteen of the 27 historic sites will participate, including such non-traditional Civil War sites as Historic Edenton, Somerset Place, Stagville, Tryon Palace and Roanoke Island Festival Park. Sites will create a permanent addition to their grounds and highlight the North Carolina experience through programs designed to help fourth- and eighth-grade students meet education standards. Each site also will have an individual program that is site specific. In preparation, a teacher workshop for renewal credits was held this past summer.

Exhibits will appear on a range of topics such as a Civil War transportation exhibit at the N.C. Transportation Museum in Spencer in 2011, and an exhibit at the Museum of the Albemarle on the capture of the port towns on the Albemarle Sound, the rivers, canals and waterways.

Archaeological work will be undertaken at selected locations including Ft. Fisher and Ft. Anderson/Brunswick Town. State archivists will hold quarterly talks, and the genealogy staff will offer tips on “tracing your roots.” The N.C. Museum of History will build upon previous exhibits and highlight aspects of the war over the course of the anniversary period. The Historical Publications Office will initiate new publications related to the war and will perform a series of reprints, in addition to continuing work on volumes in the troops roster series (http://nc-historical-publications.stores.yahoo.net/). A highlight is the new publication “Worthy of Record: The Civil War and Reconstruction Diaries of Columbus Lafayette Turner,” about an Iredell County native who spent time in two Union prison camps and later was elected to the General Assembly during Reconstruction.

Presently in development as a collaborative effort with the University of North Carolina Press is a North Carolina Civil War atlas, a project conceived by map maker and research historian Mark A. Moore.

The advisory committee of the state’s leading Civil War historians is guiding development and execution of programming. Members include Mark Bradley of the U.S. Army War College, Paul Escott of Wake Forest University, Chris Fonvielle of the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, Joseph Glatthaar of UNC-Chapel Hill, Susanna Lee of N.C. State University, Freddie Parker of N.C. Central University, John David Smith of UNC-Charlotte and Richard Starnes of Western Carolina University.

The African American Heritage Commission will provide underwriting for selected events.

The N.C. Department of Cultural Resources is the state agency with the mission to enrich lives and communities, and the vision to harness the state’s cultural resources to build North Carolina’s social, cultural and economic future. Information on Cultural Resources is available 24/7 at www.ncculture.com.

Layered and interdisciplinary, indeed: symposia, new interpretation initiatives at historic sites, an educational website, archaeology, publication projects.  This looks to be one of the better Sesquicentennial efforts.  Let me encourage you to visit the website for more information.

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Secession on display in the Tar Heel State

Here’s an item I just received from the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources:

RALEIGH – For North Carolina, the Civil War officially began in the State Capitol. On May 20, 1861, delegates from across the state adopted the Ordinance of Secession in the House of Commons, officially withdrawing the state from the Union. This event followed months of tense debate between Unionists and Secessionists, slavery advocates and abolitionists.

 A new exhibit, Crisis at the Capitol: North Carolina on the Eve of War, explores what the State Capitol was like on the eve of the conflict and introduces visitors to many of the individuals working and living here in a time before secession and before the war. The exhibit opens Sept. 17 and will remain on display through May 13, 2011. Admission is free.

 The exhibit is based on documents left behind by 11 different people, each with a different perspective on the impending crisis. Visitors will learn the stories of John Copeland, a Raleigh native who participated in John Brown’s infamous raid on Harpers Ferry, Va.; Harriet Jacobs, once enslaved in Edenton, who escaped and became active in the abolition movement; and John Thomas Jones, a student at the University of North Carolina who supported secession and enlisted in the army despite of his father’s Unionist views. The viewpoints of President Abraham Lincoln, N.C. Governor John Ellis, and famed abolitionist author and Mocksville native Hinton Rowan Helper are also highlighted.

 The State Capitol’s mission is to preserve and interpret the history, architecture and functions of the 1840 building and Union Square. The State Capitol is at One Edenton Street, Raleigh, NC 27601. Visit www.nchistoricsites.org/capitol/default.htm or call (919) 733-4994 for more information.

Administered by the Division of State Historic Sites, the State Capitol is part of the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources, the state agency with the mission to enrich lives and communities, and the vision to harness the state’s cultural resources to build North Carolina’s social, cultural and economic future. Information is available 24/7 at http://www.ncdcr.gov/.

Looks pretty nifty!

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