Plan A Visit

**With the health and safety of our community, volunteers and staff in mind the Mount Airy Museum of Regional History will be closing to the public at 5:00PM, Tuesday March 17 and will remain closed until further notice.  During this time the museum’s staff will be on site working during regular operating hours and can be reached by phone or email. As we work our way through this situation we’ll be launching some new web-based programming and activities so please follow our social media feeds for more information on those offerings as they develop. Our apologies for any inconvenience and thanks for your understanding and support.**

All of the information you, or your group will need to plan a visit to the museum, including our schedule, hours, rates & more!

If you are planning a visit for a school group, please see our "For Educators" section.

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Changing Exhibits

Coming Soon-  Spirited: Prohibition in America

Upcoming Events

Fri Aug 07 @ 8:00pm - 09:30pm
Historic Downtown Mount Airy Ghost Tours

Who We Are


Mount Airy Museum of Regional History

IMG_8201_-_Copy_606x640 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

New museum programs afoot for summer

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The Mount Airy Museum of Regional History will kick off its summer season Memorial Day weekend with expanded hours, the return of the Ghost Tours and two new programs offering unique ways for local residents and visitors to engage with local history.  One new program will be a downtown history and architecture walking tour.  “It’s a great opportunity to learn about the evolution of architecture in this community,” said Matthew Edwards, museum director.  The tours will depart from the museum at 6 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Tickets for the approximately 90-minute tours cost $11 including tax and will be available for advance purchase at the museum and online.

The tour, currently clocked at about 3/4 of a mile, highlights architecture both in the downtown business district and nearby residential areas.  “We’re still tweaking the route,” Edwards said, referring to the early stages as “beta-testing.”   Tour guides have been training over the past several weeks, and a group from the visitors center will take the tour on Wednesday.  Combining both business and residential areas provides a way to tie in the stories of the buildings with the stories of the people who built them.  “Many people who built our historic district today lived within sight,” Edwards explained.  He gave the example of W.E. Merritt, the owner of a local brick yard who built the museum building and lived in a house on Main Street.  The tour also places the Mount Airy specific elements within a broader context.  “The architecture follows the trends happening throughout the south between the 1880s and 1920s, with a push towards modernization and urban renewal in the 50s and 60s that dramatically altered things,” the director said.  “Recently, there’s been a little more interest turning them back to their original aesthetic, which is not just happening here, it’s happening all over the country.”

Costumed guided tours offered

Museum visitors will have the option to take a guided tour led by a costumed character from the area’s history on Saturdays.  For $4 added to the admission fee, the 1.5 hour tours will depart from the museum’s front desk at 11, 1 and 3 p.m.  The guides, some of whom are trained actors, come armed with a “ton of stories,” each offering a different perspective on the exhibits and history.  “Everyone has their areas,” he said. “There’s one-and-a-half hours of personal narrative and interesting stories.”  “I think it’s going to be a neat little add on,” he said.  “I’m excited about it. You may get me one day,” the museum director said without disclosing which historical character he would portray.  Edwards noted that new programs reflect an ongoing effort to find creative ways to engage folks with history and diversify the non-profit organization’s revenue stream.  “My hope is it’s going to go really well,” he said. “You just never know until you try it.” 

Perennial favorites return

On the don’t knock it ‘till you try it note, Edwards admitted he was not an early supporter of the ghost tours.  “I’m happy to say I can be wrong,” he said, noting that more than 4,000 people have taken ghost tours since their inception in 2011.  “It’s been a strong and consistent revenue stream for us, and a tremendous asset to the museum.”  The ghost tours will also resume Memorial Day weekend, as the website states, “dearly” departing from the museum at 8 p.m. each Friday and Saturday. Tickets cost $13 and can be purchased in advance at  This year the tours will be capped at 2o people per tour. With tours in past years sometimes drawing up to 50 people who “may have been missing out on some of the experience at that point,” Edwards said, adding that if the smaller sized tours fill up, “we’ve booked additional tour guides to add tours.”  The director noted that the content of the ghost tours is continually evolving.  “We have more stories in our arsenal than you can fit into a given tour,” he said. “Each guide has their own little spin, and each time someone takes the tour they get something different.”  Beginning Memorial Day weekend the museum will be open seven days a week, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday.  For more information or to purchase tickets call 336-786-4478 or visit

Local Youth History Club Wins Big at State Competition

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RALEIGH — Mount Airy was well represented here over the weekend when a group of junior historians won several awards in a statewide competition.  The Tar Heel Junior Historian Association held its annual convention and contest on April 29 at the North Carolina Museum of History, drawing about 250 youth from about 90 chapters throughout the state.  Members of the local chapter, the Jesse Franklin Pioneers, earned a handful of first-place individual awards, one second-place individual and one group first place. 

“This is an amazing group,” said Glenda Edwards, club advisor. “They had an incredible interest in what they were learning.”  The group of about 25 youngsters in fourth through seventh grades had been developing projects for the past several months both as a group and individually, picking a project type from a number of different categories.  Sponsored by the Mount Airy Museum of Regional History and Chick-fil-A, the club meets weekly after school at the museum.  “It’s really one of our hallmark programs at the museum,” said Matthew Edwards, museum director.  “One of the really cool things about winning is that THSHA is the largest youth state history association in the country,” he said, adding that winning projects are placed on exhibit at the NC Museum of History.  “I think we have a really top-notch program,” he said. “This year’s team did a great job.”  Glenda Edwards said that while the association is all focused on state history, “we try to focus on local history.”  They participate in a variety of activities and field trips throughout the year, have ample opportunity to dig around the collection room at the local museum, with the projects and contest a culminating event.  Kinlee Reece, a Jones Intermediate fourth-grader who wrote an essay about the Autumn Leaves Festival, said learning about past club members’ projects and successes at the contest engaged her with the club.  “It wasn’t all about winning, but it gave me hope about winning,” said Reece. “Plus it seemed like pretty fun projects.”  Lily Morris, also in the fourth grade at Jones Intermediate School, agreed that the projects helped make history fun.  “In school you have to do exactly like the teacher says to do. We got to go free with ourselves, to put our own twist to it,” said Morris, who wrote an award-winning essay about African-American education.  Not having to worry about getting a grade, the historians said they focused more on the content of their projects.  “We worried about if it’s good enough for us,” Caroline Morris explained.

For the group project, the youngsters complied research about several historical families into a simulated special issue of Time Magazine titled “Mount Airy’s Founding Fathers,” featuring a photograph of James Henry Crossingham.  The article inside, by Emily Hoge and Hunter Stanish, details how Spencer’s Inc. was founded and relocated eventually in Mount Airy, and expanded to produce baby clothes.  “In fact, the overlapping neck of baby onesies today was invented and patented by James Crossingham Sr.,” the article states.  Glenda Edwards explained that fostering that kind of connection of between familiar sights around town with their history is one of the best parts of the club.  The advisor also noted that many of the students had a personal connection to their project.  Her daughter, Olivia Edwards, a seventh-grader in her third year as a junior historian, researched military medals found in her grandparents’ house.  “She just wanted to know more about him because he was killed in World War II,” Glenda Edwards said.  Another student, Max Filcher, researched a butter churn used by his grandmother on a daily basis.  Ava Utt’s project focused on a scale her great-grandmother used to weigh babies as a nurse at Martin Memorial working for Dr. E.C. Ashby.  “All these things had a personal family connection,” Glenda Edwards said. “They were able to take that and put that into this larger community going on at the time.”  The winners of each category are kept secret until announced at the convention.  When Lily Morris heard her name, “I thought I was going to fall down on stage my legs were so wobbly.” Caroline Morris had a similar experience.  “My whole body was kind of shaking.”

The winners:

Artifact Search Contest:

• Ava Utt, Olivia Edwards and Max Flinchum.


• Jesse Franklin Pioneers, 1st place, elementary group.

• Cora Branch, 1st place, elementary individual.


• Max Oakley, 1st place, houses.


• Lily Morris, 1st place, African American Historical, elementary

• Madison Lawson, 1st place, American Revolution Historical, intermediate

• Kinlee Reece, 2nd place, THJH Historical, elementary

Historian in the making

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Anyone who thinks history is a dry topic needs to listen to Taylor Osborne talk about it.  When describing the three battles of the American Revolution that interest him most, the 19-year-old college student sounds like a sports broadcaster announcing a championship game, offering both play-by-play and color commentary that conveys the drama, intrigue and the stakes.  Osborne, of State Road, researched the southern campaign of the American Revolution for his Elkin High School senior project, building three dioramas that represent scenes from the battles of Camden, Guilford Courthouse and Yorktown.  At the time, the work was noteworthy in its scope and for his effort: he well exceeded the 15 hours of work required for the project, charting about 100 hours while actually putting in about 1,000 hours.  He researched, designed and built each diorama from scratch, hand painting each tiny soldier.  A year later, the project is on exhibit at the Mount Airy Museum of Regional History.  The Surry Community College freshman reached out to the museum when looking for different places to display it.  “We thought it would fit,” said Amy Snyder, museum curator, because the museum’s April history talk focused on events from a similar time period.

The materials now on display in the third floor of the museum reflect a year’s worth of Osborne’s continued attention to the project.  He repainted some soldiers for accuracy, and added collectibles, pictures and items that flesh out the dioramas for a full exhibition.  Flags from various contingents hang on the wall behind.  Within the dioramas, Osborne based the “frozen” action on famous paintings and details from history he thought were important.  An officer, or as Osborne calls him, the coward, fleeing from the battle on horseback.  Blood on the sword of another officer known for his brutality. A dismembered arm lying amid the soldiers.  General George Washington, depicted with brown hair. (It hadn’t yet turned white, Osborne explained.)  “They’re an excellent example of these battles,” Snyder said. “They’re very detailed and intricate.”  The curator said her favorite detail is a small picture of a General’s wife on his desk inside a tent.  “It’s just amazing.”  The project will be housed at the museum through mid-May, Snyder said.

History of a historian

Osborne said he initially planned to focus the project on the Battle of Yorktown, but his teacher encouraged him to address the “entire southern campaign of the American Revolution.”  Lexington, Concord, (the first battles of the war) Saratoga (where the British surrender 5,700 troops) — those battles are well known, Osborne said. “From Saratoga they drop off.”  The Battle of Yorktown had been special to Osborne since visiting the historical site in Yorktown, Virginia, on an eighth-grade field trip.  “That’s what got me into the Revolution,” he said.  “I was fascinated. Here’s a bunch of colonist farmers who say, ‘Hey, we’re going to take on the strongest army in the world.’ That kind of underdog story was fascinating to me.”  The southern campaign that interests Osborne is an underdog story itself, both in that it is under-reported in the history books and in the battles of which it consists.  At the October 1777 Battle of Saratoga, the British surrendered about 5,700 troops to Major General Horatio Gates.  However, the British didn’t authorize peace negotiations until months after the Battle of Yorktown in 1781, where Cornwallis surrendered.  Before that, the battles of Camden and Guilford Courthouse were both British victories, yet uniquely positioned the British army for the crucial defeat in Yorktown.  He said he wanted to take on the southern strategy because, “just the fact that it’s a part of the war no one’s ever heard of,” he said. “A lot of the southern battles are completely forgotten.” 

Moving forward

Osborne seems to have as good a handle on the future as he does on the past.  He’s gobbling up history classes at Surry Community College and plans on transferring next year to UNC Greensboro to earn his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in history.  After that, Osborne would like to teach history at either the high school or college level while he earns his PhD.  In the meantime, he doesn’t draw a line between work and fun.  Osborne became involved in reenactments a couple of years ago, and while that’s not especially shocking for a history buff, Osborne said he had no interest in the activity until attending one for the first time in 2014.  “Some of my teachers would say ‘you’re going to be a re-enactor,” he recalled. “I said, ‘I’d rather just stay here and read about it.’”  After witnessing the drama first hand, Osborne and his dad, Lauren Osborne, decided to give it a shot.  Now, they’re both hooked.  “It’s like you’re right in the middle of the battle,” Taylor Osborne said, with smoke everywhere, chaos, and with even a scripted battle, things not going according to plan.  “That’s how it was in real life.

Museum volunteers honored at social.

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Angela Yacano’s reasons for volunteering at the Mount Airy Museum of Regional History are pretty simple.  “I have a great time in here,” she said, as if admitting to a guilty pleasure.  Yacano, who works the museum front desk one or two afternoons a month, has been a museum volunteer for several years.  “I just like to talk to the people,” she said. “I like the chance to meet people who come from all over the world. Their reasons for visiting Mount Airy are really different.”  Whatever their reasons for passing through, Yacano said she always sends them up to the museum tower to check out the view.  “I call the tower Mount Airy’s answer to the Empire State Building,” she said. “That always gets a chuckle.”

Museum staffers Nancy Davis, guest services manager, and Matthew Edwards, executive director, have discovered that most volunteers get a lot out of the social opportunities volunteering provides.  To thank the people who donate their time and energy, a “Volunteer Appreciation Social” was held on April 14. Davis said the museum annually hosts a program during National Volunteer Week, which in 2016 ran from April 10 to April 16. This year they changed the format of the appreciation from a program with guest speakers to simply a social hour where volunteers could mingle and munch on catered heavy hors d’oeuvres. The following long term volunteers were honored with service pins.

For five years – Mark Brown, Anita Hoisington, Rodney Pell.

For 10 years – Barbara Fields, Doris Surratt.

Twenty-year volunteer Ruth Richards was unable to attend the social but will be pinned when she shows up for work at the museum on Tuesday.  “Ruth has been a steadfast supporter and volunteer almost since the museum opened to the public,” Edwards said. “Her warm smile and welcoming personality have greeted visitors to the museum for 20 years now. It’s rare to find that kind of dedication these days and we’re honored to have her as a part of our museum family.”  Davis added that five volunteers who have been with the museum for 19 years are on deck for the pin for next year.

Additional volunteers sought

While the staffers are thankful for their core group of about 65 volunteers, recruiting and maintaining a full volunteer staff of ideally about 100 is a “constant struggle,” Davis said. Folks want to do too much, too soon, and burn out. Others are just too busy for a consistent commitment.  “There are a lot of organizations we compete with for volunteers,” Edwards said. “A ton of great organizations.”  The director noted that human services organizations sometimes have a more obvious connection to serving the community that draws volunteers, but that the museum also serves a critical function.  “Our mission is to preserve our collective experience of living in this place and time. It’s part of being part of something bigger than ourselves, something more influential,” he said. “What we do is just as important to the overall health of the community.”  Davis recalled one docent who compares the museum to an individual who might keep a box of important memories and treasures.  “She says ‘consider the museum our box and these are the treasures we want to keep.’”

Edwards said the broad strokes for a regional history museum are similar to other regions, that every community had their industries, their “big fire,” their powerful families.  “Our job is to tell our story and what makes us different,” he said, and volunteers are crucial to doing that job well.  “It frees up paid staff to be working behind the scenes on the big picture things,” he said.  Edwards said their greatest volunteer needs are for front desk volunteers, who run the cash register and more importantly “are our first interaction with the visiting public,” Edwards said.  “That’s the hardest to fill because of the sheer number of shifts.” 

The museum is also in need of docents, who must be available on demand to give tours and attend training.  But the director noted that “there are a lot of jobs people don’t think about,” he said. “We’ll find a way to work with anyone with an interest in the museum.”  He also noted that volunteers don’t necessarily have to spend a lot of time at the actual museum in situations where getting out of the home is a barrier.  Edwards used his wife, Glenda Edwards, as an example. As leader of the Junior Historians, she spends about eight to 10 hours at home prepping for what ends up as only about an hour and a half at the museum.  “If they’ve got an interest we want to give them an outlet,” he said.  Anyone interested in volunteering at the museum should contact Nancy Davis at (336) 786-4478 ext. 229.

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