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Changing Exhibits

Now Open:

Main Street Memories Exhibit

June 14 through November 1, 2014

Upcoming Events

Mon Sep 01 @ 3:00AM - 04:00PM
The Darker Side of Mayberry - Additional Day
Mon Sep 01 @ 8:00PM - 09:30PM
Historic Mount Airy Ghost Tour - Additional Tour
Fri Sep 05 @ 3:00PM -
The Darker Side of Mayberry Tour

Who We Are


Mount Airy Museum of Regional History

museum001 Ours is an all American story - typical of how communities grew up all across our great nation. While our story takes place in the back country of northwestern North Carolina at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains, it is likely to bear many similarities to the development of crossroads, towns, and cities throughout America.

It had taken little more than 100 years for the corridors along the coastline of this still-new continent to overflow. As tensions grew and conflicts flared, the pioneer spirit set in. Families literally packed up everything they owned and headed into the unknown-searching for the "promised land."

Mission Statement:

The Purpose of the Mount Airy Museum of Regional History is to  Collect, Preserve and Interpret the Natural, Historic, and Artistic Heritage of the Region

                                                                      Adopted by the Board of Directors   October 9, 1995

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Mount Airy Museum Of Regional History

Everyone is a Storyteller, expert says

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“Tell me a story” is one of the first things a child learns to say — right after being taught how to address Mom and Dad.

But while wanting to hear a good story is an innate desire of nearly everyone, the ability to tell one is just as common, according to a master storyteller who displayed that art Saturday at Mount Airy Museum of Regional History.

“I think everyone is a storyteller,” Terri Ingalls said just before launching into a series of folk tales during an afternoon program that concluded a summer storytelling series at the museum.

“Not everyone is a performer,” Ingalls added of the dramatic and other skills that can enhance the process. “But everyone is a storyteller.”

Ingalls is a member of a group called the Surry County Storytelling Guild, which promotes that art for adults and children throughout the area and meets on the first Tuesday night of each month at the Mount Airy Public Library. As many as 20 storytellers will gather to engage in activities that hone their craft and, yes, swap tall tales of one kind or another for purposes of critique.

Yet the emphasis Saturday afternoon was strictly on entertainment, as Ingalls demonstrated the talents that have made her a highly respected part of the region’s theatrical as well as storytelling community.

Though she stood alone in front of about 25 listeners without benefit of eye-catching props or costumes, Ingalls quickly had the audience enthralled. Her stories whisked the group from a third-floor meeting room in Mount Airy to faraway lands.

The first tale she spun was about two brothers and a magic box, which began with Ingalls asking some audience members about a recent trip to the beach and the reality of not being able to drink ocean water because it is salty.

Ingalls’ story explained how the water got to be that way, which arose after one of the brothers in her story gave rice cakes to a starving old man although he was hungry himself. The old man then was transformed into a handsome figure who repaid the act of kindness by giving the brother a special green jade box that would grant all his wishes.  The brother used its powers to conjure up a big house for himself and lots of food and wine along with new clothes, with a simple “thank you” required to end the items resulting from each wish. He also threw a big party so everyone could enjoy the bounty, including his greedy older brother who subsequently stole the magic box for his own.  While escaping in a rowboat, the bad brother ate rice cakes and requested some salt from the magic box to make them taste better. But not knowing that he needed to say thanks to the box to end that request, the salt kept flowing out and eventually filled the boat — causing it to sink.  That magic box is still putting out salt to this day, Ingalls concluded. “And that’s why the ocean is salty.”

The storyteller kept the audience riveted by using rising inflections in her voice to emphasize dramatic moments or soft tones for quieter ones, or relying on wild gestures with her arms to simulate action sequences. When Ingalls pointed to the ceiling and vividly described lanterns hanging from imaginary trees during a party scene, the audience could almost see them.  And as she slowly paced across the room to emphasize a suspenseful moment in another tale centering on cats, the old wooden floor of the museum creaked in cooperation.

The appreciative audience members included Doug and Denise Lincoln, a couple visiting from Cape Girardeau, Mo., who had read a newspaper article about the program at the museum and decided to attend.  “She’s a great storyteller,” Doug Lincoln said.  Mrs. Lincoln mentioned how some practitioners of the art can be intimidating or overly boisterous in their approach. “It wasn’t overbearing,” she said of Ingalls’ style. 

Ingalls said one needn’t be a professional storyteller to entertain others, although there are mechanisms to sharpen one’s skills to the fullest. For example, she mentioned East Tennessee State University, which now offers a master’s degree program in reading/storytelling. Many times the art of storytelling unfolds simply, Ingalls explained, perhaps when a family is gathered at the dinner table and hears the story of Uncle Fred falling through the floor while in a bathtub. The family might have heard the same account 10 times, but it can be just as interesting the 11th time if the teller makes it so with his or her technique, she added.  “I think you have to love the stories — you have to enjoy the stories,” Ingalls said of what it takes to be a good presenter.

“And, of course, being a bit of a ham helps as well.”

Smithsonian Traveling Exhibit Focuses on Sports

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The Mount Airy Museum of Regional History will host the traveling exhibit “Hometown Teams: How Sports Shape America” beginning this February.  The traveling exhibit is a Museum on Main Street (MoMS) exhibition presented by the North Carolina Humanities Council, the Smithsonian Institution, and rural communities statewide. It marks the beginning of a year-long tour throughout North Carolina. The exhibit will be at the Mount Airy Museum of Regional History from Feb. 28 to April 11.

“This project’s goal is to provide high quality exhibits to rural communities across our state,” said Museum Executive Director Matthew Edwards. “We were the inaugural site in 2010 with the New Harmonies: Celebrating American Music exhibit which inspired our own traveling luthier’s exhibit.” According to Edwards, this marks the first year the exhibit will have traveled.  Edwards explained the Hometown Teams exhibit’s sports emphasis will allow the museum to tie in other sports, such as racing and the early racing heritage of Surry County. He noted that at one time, Mount Airy was a well-known horse racing venue. He said talks are under way to create a local exhibits of sports heritage and said the museum is also looking at a way to host local hall of fame inductee events.

“We are a history museum but we want to be reaching out to be relevant to everyone’s lives,” Edwards said. “The exhibit is another unique way to reach out to different groups.”  He said parts of the popular White Liquor and Dirt Tracks program will be returning with its racer’s round table featuring those familiar with the early days of the sport.  “With Hometown Teams, our state will uniquely engage the many themes of sports as they relate to our society and culture,” said Humanities Council’s Donovan McKnight, program officer. “North Carolina has a central place in the unfolding history of sports, dating back to ancient Cherokee Indians with anetso, the ancestor of modern day lacrosse. The colonial era in North Carolina introduced the traditional sports of horse racing, fishing, hunting, cockfighting, and footraces which tested skills considered valuable in North Carolina’s early agrarian society.”

The modern era of sports in North Carolina also brings with it professional sports teams like the Carolina Panthers, Carolina Hurricanes, and the Charlotte Hornets. These professional teams bring not only social entertainment, but economic impact and international attention to North Carolina. Support for MoMS has been provided by the U.S. Congress. Persons may learn more at and

Spinning a yarn - Master storyteller set to entertain Saturday

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They don’t know what the topic will be but organizers say one thing is for sure: It will be fun for the entire family.  The Mount Airy Museum of Regional History has set the second of three summer storytelling events for Saturday at 2 p.m., according to museum Director Matt Edwards.   “This is a program we started last year to kind of break up the museum’s History Talks program with something that may be more universal in appeal,” Edwards said. “We hope that this event appeals to both local residents and out-of-town visitors.”

Saturday’s event features master storyteller Mike Lowe, he added.  Edwards said he had no idea what sort of tales Lowe might tell.  “That’s the great thing about bringing in professional storytellers,” he said, “that I have no idea what the story will be about.”   Lowe, Edwards promised, will simply “come in and weave a story for the audience.”  “He will begin telling a story and will work with the type of crowd on hand to make it fun and enjoyable for everyone,” Edwards said. “(Lowe’s) stories, based on my experience, tend to have a connection to his early life, but I don’t know what he will be talking about. We give the storytellers free rein on these things.”

Lowe is a professional storyteller who travels extensively promoting the art through storytelling workshops and programs. He most recently lent his talents to the July 4 reading of the Declaration of Independence as part of Mount Airy’s Independence Day celebration.   “He’s also a skilled musician, artist and historic re-enactor,” Edwards said. “I like to call him a renaissance man of the cultural arts.”  Edwards said any story told by Lowe is an experience to behold. “He tends to engage the audience in the story and thrive on audience interaction,” he said. “So I feel sure there will be opportunities for people in the audience to be a part of the story.”

The museum director said he could promise one thing.  "I guarantee that it will be fun for everyone who comes out to hear the story,” he said. “Mike has a long connection with our museum doing programs like this, and we’re always happy to have him come back and spin his yarns.  “It’s an experience not to be missed.”  The event will be held in the courtyard of the museum, weather permitting. In the event of rain, it will be moved inside.  “But the story will be told,” Edwards promised. “Rain or shine.”

The final storytelling event is scheduled for Aug. 9, featuring storyteller Terri Ingalls of Mount Airy.

Museum Receives Award for Geocache Program

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The Mount Airy Museum of Regional History was honored at the North Carolina Museum Council’s annual conference with the Award of Excellence for the “Geocaching for History” program.  Executive Director of the Mount Airy Museum of Regional History Matt Edwards said the award was a “reinforcement of the belief that museums should be active and vibrant community partners.”  “That is something we have really been working toward at the museum, and this project is a great example,” Edwards added. “The museum staff, Amy Snyder in particular, have been working very hard on this project over the course of the last 18 months or so. For their hard work and our institution’s efforts to be recognized by a group of peers is a tremendous honor, and we hope it speaks well of the work we are doing and the work we want to continue to do in moving forward.”

The “Geocaching for History” was launched last year when the museum partnered with Mount Airy Parks and Recreation and the Kids in Parks for what Edwards described as a national pilot program. Funding for the program came from Kids in Parks, as well as additional funding from the Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation, for purchase of the GPS Units. The North Carolina Humanities Council provided implementation money, which Edwards said allowed “broad regional implementation” for the geocache program.

Geocaching is an outdoor treasure hunting activity using GPS-enabled devices. The GPS units are available for rent for $5 each from the museum as well as Reeves Community Center. Participants navigate to a specific set of GPS coordinates and then attempt to find the cache hidden at that location.  Edwards said there are 22 geocaching sites around the region that were researched by the museum, with caches designed and placed in each location, as well as a corresponding online exhibit. Each site can be discovered by participants and if they have a smart phone with a QR code reader, they are able to see additional interpretive material about the site, including history about the location and sometimes corresponding video and photos.  “This is a great way for us to teach local history where it happened, not just within the four walls of the museum,” Edwards shared.

Edwards invited anyone who wanted to participate to visit the museum or Reeves Community Center to rent the GPS units. The $5 rental fee per GPS unit, per day, will go into a pool of money that will be used to upgrade the program. All GPS units come loaded with the 22 cache sites, and the units will give varying degrees of directions to locate the sites. Seven of the sites are located on the Emily B. Taylor and Ararat River Greenway Trails.  Participants select which cache they want to search for, then follow the directions on the screen, which will lead to the approximate coordinates, then an audible chime will let them know when they are close and clues are available to assist with the treasure hunt of sorts. “The treasure you are seeking is knowledge,” Edwards added.  Caches range in size from small, about the size of a double-A battery, to larger caches the size of a two-quart water bottle. In addition to the museum’s GPS caches, there are about six to ten other locations within walking distance of the downtown area, Edwards shared.

The activity is great for families, visitors, school groups, scout troop, and anyone who wants to be outdoors and in nature, as well as those who have an interest in local history. Edwards shared that the museum is in the process of developing materials and activities for classroom use of the GPS units.  The award, one of three given out to North Carolina museums, were designed to recognize, encourage, and promote excellence within activities of the museum community and organizations in related fields of interest. The awards are focused on programs, projects, and services offered by museums.

For more information about the GPS program and rental of the units, contact the Mount Airy Museum of Regional History at 786-4478.

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