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The Museum is open from 10am - 5pm Monday through Saturday, Sunday 1-4pm






Changing Exhibits

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




Upcoming Events

Thu Jun 13 @ 9:00am - 01:00pm
Imagineering Camp for ages 6-9
Fri Jun 14 @ 8:00pm - 09:30pm
Historic Downtown Mount Airy Ghost Tours
Wed Jun 19 @ 4:00pm - 07:00pm
Juneteenth Celebration

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

Bringing History to Life: Museum to Screen WPAQ Documentary

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Next week’s History Talks event at the Mount Airy Museum of Regional History promises to be one for the record books.  “This isn’t going to be your average program,” said museum Executive Director Matt Edwards. ‘This one will be a little more special.”

Saturday’s program, which gets under way at 2 p.m. on September 13 in the third floor meeting space at the museum, will feature Jordan Nance, a documentary film-maker who will be screening his well-received film “Broadcast: A Man and His Dream.”

The film should have special meaning for Surry County residents, Edwards said.  “This is about the early days of WPAQ radio and its impact on the historic music of the region,” he said.  Edwards said Nance’s documentary is even more impressive due to his physical challenges.  “What’s interesting about this program is not neessarily our typical History Talks speaker,” he said. “He suffers from cerebral palsy, and the form he has makes him wheelchair-bound and he has to speak through a computerized voice mechanism much like Stephen Hawking.”

In Nance’s teenage years, Edwards said, he became fascinated with the music of the region, listening often to WPAQ.  “He would listen from his home in Reidsville and developed a real affinity for old-time music,” he said.

That devotion to the region’s musical heritage planted the seeds for decades of work, according to Edwards.  “He has spent the better part of the last 10-12 years documenting the early history of the station, and he became close friends with the late Ralph Epperson,” Edwards said. “In fact, he was able to interview him about six weeks before (Epperson) passed away in 2005.”

All told, Nance interviewed more than 60 musicians and former employees affiliated with the radio station, many of whom were on hand during the station’s developmental years in the 1950s and 1960s, he added.  “Kelly Epperson, who owns the station today, will tell you Jordan knows more about that radio station than anyone else alive, including himself,” Edwards said.

In addition to the documentary screening, Edwards said additional programming will include performances by some of the station’s early musicians including Mac Snow and the Round Peak Ramblers.

“As an added bonus, the museum will be unveiling the original WPAQ call letters which hung on the outside of the station since 1948,” Edwards said. “When they were taken down, we were very fortunate to be able to have them repaired, and we will be placing them in our permanent exhibit.” 

Edwards said he encourages the public to attend the free event.  “From a historic standpoint, what Nance has done not only helps us to document a very important piece of our regional musical history, but he’s also bee able to find tremendous resources that no one new were out there,” he said. “He has images from people’s private collections that no one knew existed.”  “It’s just a treasure trove for us,” Edwards said.

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 www.museumonmainstreet.org and www.nchumanities.org.

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.

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