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I've Endured: Women in Old-Time Music  May 17 - August 17 2024 

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Sat Jun 15 @ 8:00pm - 09:30pm
Historic Downtown Mount Airy Ghost Tours
Wed Jun 19 @ 4:00pm - 07:00pm
Juneteenth Celebration
Fri Jun 21 @ 6:00pm - 09:00pm
Adult Book Fair

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

Smithsonian Sports Exhibit Arrives

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“Hometown Teams: How Sports Shape America,” a traveling exhibit from the Smithsonian Institution, isn’t the kind of thing that can be set up anywhere.

“There were 21 crates of stuff,” said Matt Edwards of Mount Airy Museum of Regional History, the first venue in North Carolina chosen for the exhibit that arrived here aboard a tractor-tractor.

On Wednesday, Edwards, the museum’s executive director, and Amy Snyder, curator of collections, were joined by a handful of volunteers in busily unpacking the crates and setting up the exhibit under the direction of Terri Cobb, a Smithsonian representative from Washington. They were preparing for its grand opening on Saturday, when the public can view it for free.

Although the black crates still held much of the display, one could see it slowly taking shape in a 1,200-square-foot space in the changing exhibits gallery on the museum’s third floor, en route to a mission of telling the story of how sports has shaped America.

The workers unpacked a banner that soon revealed a giant image of the storied Wrigley Field in Chicago while being fitted to a metal frame in one part of the room. Meanwhile, larger-than-life images of basketball and hockey players emerged in another.

Nearby, another part of the exhibit that had been completed earlier displayed the heading “More Than a Game.” It featured sports magazines, baseball cards and even a collectible Barbie doll dressed in a soccer uniform.

“There are seven sections,” Cobb explained as the various pieces came together, including a section of aluminum bleachers — a universal fixture of the nation’s sporting landscape, along with other come components that collectively will tell the story.

“It’s really a way of celebrating all the things that sports brings to us, as individuals and communities and athletes and fans,” Cobb summed-up regarding the exhibit’s message overall. It features not only the role played by professional teams, but sports’ existence on a grassroots level on Little League fields or in high school gyms.

In addition to “More Than a Game,” the themes of the self-contained modules include “Rooting for the Home Team,” “Take Me Out to the Ball Game,” “Sports Explosion,” “Playing the Game” and others. One section is dedicated to sports’ portrayals in movies.

On Wednesday, the assembly team was referring to a series of diagrams spread around the floor to guide it in completing the exhibit.

Plans originally called for the set-up process to also include more than 20 people from other localities in North Carolina where the touring exhibit will go after leaving Mount Airy. They were to come here as part of an overnight workshop to learn how to arrange the various pieces once they leave here.

But today’s forecast of inclement weather forced the cancellation of the workshop, Edwards said, with volunteers recruited to help with the task.

Grand Opening

The grand opening for “Hometown Teams: How Sports Shape America” will kick off Saturday at 10 a.m. at the North Main Street museum and last until 5 p.m.

Local high school wrestlers who recently won state championships are expected to be on hand for the event, according to Edwards.

The public will be able to view the Smithsonian exhibit for free on Saturday, and afterward it will be covered in the regular admission price at the museum.

“Get out and break the cabin fever,” Edwards said in inviting everyone to come by on Saturday.

“Hometown Teams: How Sports Shape America” will be housed there through April 11.

Basketball Presentation

Edwards also mentioned two activities that will accompany the traveling exhibit, a weekly series of sports-related programs and the preparation of a permanent exhibit on this area’s sports history.

“We’ve had a few changes in our original programming,” he said.

Included is the rescheduling of a NASCAR-oriented program initially slated for this Saturday, featuring Rex White, a member of the NASCAR Hall of Fame’s Class of 2015.

That event has been moved to March 21.

The schedule reshuffling also includes shifting to this Saturday a program on women’s textile basketball which was to be held later in the series.

It will be led by Pamela Grundy, a sports historian, who is to present the story of teams prevalent decades ago when companies sponsored all-female basketball squads.

One such group, the Elkin Blanketeers, a mill team representing Chatham Manufacturing Co., was a national champion.

The program on women’s basketball begins Saturday at 2 p.m. on the museum’s third floor where the traveling exhibit will be displayed.

Actor and playwright Mike Wiley, who heads a production company in Durham, also will present a program on Jackie Robinson as part of the series. Among other presentations will be one focusing on Mount Airy High School football.

Another activity linked to the traveling exhibit involves a permanent exhibit now being developed to highlight local sports history.

It presently exists on a small scale, with a large exhibit to result during the coming weeks, Edwards said.

Mount Airy Museum of Regional History and the surrounding community were expressly chosen by the North Carolina Humanities Council to be the kickoff site of “Hometown Teams” as part of the Museum on Main Street program. It is designed to bring high-quality traveling exhibits to smaller rural communities through a national/state/local partnership.

This city was picked as part of a grant-application process, the museum executive director has said.

The Smithsonian exhibit also is being funded in part by a $2,500 grant from the Duke Energy Foundation, which was awarded in January in support of the museum’s annual changing exhibits program.

Beginner genealogy class planned

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Classes will begin Tuesday for local residents who want to research their family tree, but don’t know how to get started.

The genealogy course for beginners involves a five-part series to be taught by Esther Johnson, a veteran local genealogist.

In addition to this Tuesday night’s session, classes are scheduled for Feb. 17 and 24 and March 3 and 10, each lasting from 6-8 p.m.

Classes will be held at different locations.

The second-floor classroom of Mount Airy Museum of Regional History will host the first two sessions.

On Feb. 24, the third class is planned at the Surry County register of deeds office in Dobson, with the fourth on March 3 to occur at the Carlos Surratt Genealogy Room of Surry Community College in Dobson.

The final installment on March 10 will be back at the museum classroom.

Laptops are welcome, but not necessary, with many handouts to be provided.

The class is limited to 25 students.

Museum members will be admitted free, but there is a fee of $5 per class (or $25 for the course) for non-members. Annual memberships are available for $25 for seniors and students or $40 for others.

Amy Snyder of the museum staff can be contacted for additional information or registration at (336) 786-4478, Extension 227, or

Family Trees Grow at Swap Meet

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Every one of the more than 100 people who attended a genealogy swap meet Saturday in Mount Airy had their own reasons for being there, but Suzanne Settle was on a special mission.

“My husband passed in July,” the West Lebanon Street resident explained while seated in front of a computer logged into the website, as a member of the Surry County Genealogy Association accessed information for Settle.

“I feel like my husband and I are still one,” she said, describing their relationship as the classic “soul mate” situation.

And now that he is gone, Settle said she feels a need to honor his memory by researching her husband’s family tree. This was the kind of situation tailor-made for Saturday’s free family history and genealogy swap meet on the third floor of Mount Airy Museum of Regional History.

Among other pro bono services, the event allowed Settle and others to tap into the website, normally a paid service, for key information.

In her case, Settle was accessing local cemetery records as part of the quest for information on her husband’s family. Whereas she has lived all around the world, he had deep roots in Surry.

“I came here (to the swap meet) because my husband was born and spent many years in Surry County,” said Settle, who added that Saturday marked her first time exploring genealogy records in such a way. “I’m here to see if there’s any facts I can glean about his family,” the city resident added while making entries in a small notebook.

Meanwhile, the museum’s third-floor conference room was a beehive of other activity as participants pored through family history information and exchanged tidbits of information. Genealogy swap meets are only held every few years locally, and on Saturday everyone seemed to be making the most of the occasion.

Surry Genealogy Association President Esther Johnson estimated that at least 50 family histories were on display Saturday. “Some have brought published books,” Johnson reported. “Others have just brought stuff they’ve run off the computer.”

Such a family history helped one Mount Airy couple, Tim and Lannie Edwards, establish a link they didn’t know about beforehand, through their meeting with another local resident, Harold Mooney.

“We didn’t even know each other in the beginning, and found out we had common relatives,” Lannie Edwards said of their encounter with Mooney. “We just started doing our genealogy research about two years ago.”

Tim Edwards is proud of his Irish heritage, and said he has always referred to a great-grandfather of his as “the leprechaun.”

Providing attendees such as the Edwards couple and Mooney a forum to network and discover previously unknown family links seemed just as important Saturday as the mountains of written information available.

“Oh, it’s just a lot of fun,” Tim Edwards said. “Just exciting and fun to find out where all your folks came from.”

From Near And Far

While most of those at Saturday’s family history and genealogy swap meet were from this general area, Emily Holmes journeyed from Virginia Beach, Virginia, where she is a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution.

Though she has visited Surry County before, Holmes said Saturday’s event was the first of its kind that she has attended here.

Holmes said her roots include 11 local families. “All originated in Surry County in the 1700s,” the Virginia resident said. Included are such surnames as Nichols, Myers, Weatherman, Fleming, Young and Robinson.

“This is very exciting,” Holmes said while surveying the goings-on in the museum at the time. “I really like the concept.”

Similar to Holmes, Stephen Harris attended Saturday’s gathering seeking details about a particular family line of his locally, the Franklins, “which I know nothing about.” So far he had not put his hands on any such information, but was continuing to search and still having fun.

“It’s been an enjoyable trip up here from State Road,” Harris added.

The station, manned by Don Edmonds, recording secretary of the Surry County Genealogy Association, was a popular stop.

Edmonds said it was enabling swap meet participants to access birth, marriage and death records — and in some cases, pleasant surprises regarding their forebears.

“Sometimes you get pictures — and pictures (of ancestors) they’ve never seen before,” Edmonds said.

Despite the different ancestral lines being explored Saturday, everyone at the swap meet shared a common bond related to the family of man.

“All of us want to know where our ancestors came from, where we got all the little quirks we have — whether we’re short or tall,” said Dean Brown of Mount Airy, who has been researching his family links for more than 20 years.

Brown said the long search has produced some revelations about his forefathers he is proud of and others which he is not.

“And that’s true with every family.”

Genealogy swap meet takes root Saturday

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A genealogy swap meet scheduled this Saturday in Mount Airy offers a rare opportunity to explore one’s family tree and also to fuel interest in genealogy itself, according to one local expert involved.

When people are bitten by the genealogy bug, they can grow obsessed with wanting to learn all they can about ancestors who have long passed.

“You become like a detective and go out and do all this research,” Surry County Genealogy Association President Esther Johnson said Wednesday, describing the process as similar to assembling the pieces of a puzzle.

The free family history and genealogy swap meet set for Saturday at Mount Airy Museum of Regional History at 301 N. Main St. could supply some of those pieces. It will be held from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on the third floor of the museum, which is sponsoring the gathering along with the genealogy group.

Such a swap meet has not been held locally for several years. “Everyone is invited,” Johnson said.

“If they’re into genealogy, fine, if they’re not into genealogy, that’s OK, too.”

A variety of resources will be available, including personnel to help information seekers look up names on the website. Someone also will be there to explain, another Internet resource.

Family histories that have been assembled by area residents additionally will be displayed, and those attending are asked to bring and share any information they have with others in order to establish valuable connections.

Representatives of other historical or genealogy organizations also are expected to be part of the event along with authors.

Services provided Saturday will be free, except for copying costs. Participants with laptop computers are encouraged to bring them.

“I think we’ll have a good-size crowd,” Johnson added Wednesday. The local genealogy group holds its regular meetings at night, when some older folks can’t drive, so Saturday’s daytime event will benefit them, she said.

Journey Involved

Johnson, a longtime genealogist, did offer an observation about how the swap meet fits in with the big picture of family history research, which she has heard is now the world’s most-popular pastime.

It has been bolstered by the emergence of television shows such as “Genealogy Roadshow,” along with various Internet resources.

But sitting at a computer is a small facet of genealogy, Johnson said, which should go beyond collecting cut-and-dried facts.

“One of the reasons I wanted to have a swap meet is to teach people that there is more to genealogy or family history than names and dates,” Johnson explained. “I want them to know that you have to do research that you cannot always find on the Internet.”

This can involve seeking out old homeplaces, traipsing through family cemeteries and picking up a variety of information from facilities boasting resources not found elsewhere. These include the Carlos Surratt research room at Surry Community College, register of deeds offices, public libraries and others.

The Surry Genealogy Association, which meets at the college on the second Monday of each month at 7 p.m., also hosts special speakers who supply research tips.

Collectively, a person might learn the kind of life an ancestor led, such as his or her occupation, military service and interesting tidbits.

The ultimate objective for people tracing their roots, Johnson said, should be “putting the meat to the bones.”

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