Plan A Visit

The Museum is open from 10am - 5pm Monday through Saturday

      Sunday 1-4pm

Changing Exhibits

Piedmont Craftsmen – Celebrating 60 Years of Fine Craft   Friday August 11 – Friday October 27 “60 Years of Fine Craft, part 1” is a collection of work that spans the founding of Piedmont Craftsmen in 1963 through 1993. These formative years brought a variety of ideas and styles to the art of fine craft.  The exhibit will open on August 11 and run through October 27th with part 2 coming in August of 2024 featuring artist members from 1994 to the present.


Upcoming Events

Fri Sep 29 @ 8:00pm - 09:30pm
Historic Downtown Mount Airy Ghost Tours
Sat Sep 30 @10:00am - 01:00pm
Genealogy Class for Beginners
Sat Sep 30 @ 2:00pm - 05:00pm
Genealogy Class for Intermediates

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

Tis the Season

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Mount Airy Museum of Regional History Executive Director Matt Edwards expects this one to be one for the record books.  Plans are well under way for an event that has become a community favorite over the years: The annual Holiday Open House Program.  This year’s open house is set for Dec. 7 from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m.  During the event, community members are welcome to come into the museum free of charge, enjoy its annual holiday decor and take in live music.  For a second year, there may even be an appearance by Saint Nick.Edwards said the event is one of his favorites.  “We consider this to be our Christmas gift to the community,” he said. “It’s one of the few times each year that we waive admission and scheduled programming, open the doors and make it completely free to the community.” 

During the event there will be something for everyone.  “We have a whole palette of music throughout the day starting at 11 a.m., and continuing throughout the open house,” he said.  This year’s lineup includes Backstep, featuring award-winning local musician Chester McMilliann, and Grammy-nominated Celtic musician Alicia Merritt, who is returning for a second year.  “We’re going to have music every hour on the hour,” Edwards said. “And we will be offering light refreshments for our guests, and the museum will be fully decorated for the holidays.”  During last year’s open house, Edwards said hundreds turned out.  “We easily expect between 300 and 500 people, but think it could go as high as 1,000 this year,” he said.

For a second year, the museum is working with the Mount Airy Professionals of Surry (MAPS) to bring what is sure to be a crowd favorite, Cookies with Santa. The event will be held in the Children’s Gallery on the third floor, and Edwards said that last year dozens of children turned out to sit on Santa’s lap.  “Last year we did it for the first time and the turnout was great,” he said. “The MAPS group was very happy with the turnout, and said it was much larger than they’d anticipated. This year we’re hoping it gets even bigger.”  Will Jackson, incoming president of the professional group, said the event is a chance to get out and fellowship with the community.  “We love doing it,” he said. “It’s a great family event and we really enjoy seeing the kids’ faces light up when they see Santa.”

Edwards urges anyone who hasn’t been to the museum to come out and enjoy one of the unofficial starts to the holiday season in the community.  “If you’ve been putting off coming out and seeing what we have going on, this is the perfect time to do so,”he said. “It’s a great way to reconnect with the museum and maybe even do a little Christmas shopping in our gift shop. We have a great selection of products year-round, but we ensure we have a full inventory in advance of the holiday season.”

Creating Functional Art: Cigar Box Guitar Workshop Set

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A workshop set for November offers the chance to help preserve the musical heritage of the region.

The Mount Airy Museum of Regional History is set to host its first-ever cigar box guitar workshop, and attendees will leave with their very own hand-crafted instrument, Matt Edwards, director of the museum, said.

The workshop is scheduled for Nov. 9, from 10 a.m., until 4 p.m.

Edwards said the workshop is designed to complement the museum’s ongoing Luthier’s Craft exhibit, which launched in May.

“The exhibit deals with the string instrument traditions of the Blue Ridge mountain region, and in putting it together, we worked with local craftsmen who make fiddles, banjos and guitars to bring it to life,” he said. “From a programming standpoint, we’ve tried to put together things that directly relate to the exhibit, whether it is a concert, educational program or a hands-on workshop like the cigar box guitar event.”

Participants at the day-long workshop will actually build a working cigar box guitar, Edwards said.

“We will also offer them instruction on how to play the instrument they build,” he said.

The cigar box guitar came about out of necessity, according to the museum director.

“The cigar box instrument is a fairly old tradition,” he said. “People who couldn’t afford to purchase commercially-made instruments actually went out and made their own, and the cigar box made an easy conduit to build the body of these instruments. It was a ready-made component that many people had around.”

Edwards called the cigar box guitar a “gateway instrument.”

“Many of the luthiers we worked with for the exhibit actually started by building cigar box instruments,” he said. “This is a pretty common gateway craft that leads to the more refined instruments they’re building now as professionals.”

And in today’s breakneck world, many craftsmen are returning to their roots.

“Today, there has been a revival of interest in cigar box instrument making, and there are blues musicians out there who are playing them,” he said. “They’re really fascinating pieces of functional art.

“Cigar box guitars can even be fitted with pick-ups that will allow them to be played both electronic and acoustically,” Edwards said. “And one of the great things about them is they’re made with a minimal number of specialty parts. Other than the tuning keys and corner braces, pretty much everything you need to build one is readily available at the local hardware store.”

The workshop will be conducted by Mike Lowe, whom Edwards describes as a “local folklorist, musician and artist.”

The cost to attend is $60 for museum members and $80 for non-members.

“This includes all material and instruction,” Edwards said.

Limited space is available, so Edwards said advance registration is encouraged.

For more information call the museum at 336-786-4478.


Community Gets Its Bond On - Hundreds turn out for 3rd Annual Casino Royale night

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In keeping with the theme of the evening, a bright red Dodge Viper and a red carpet greeted attendees as they arrived for what has become the premier fund raising effort for the Mount Airy Museum of Regional History —the museum’s third annual Casino Royale night. The event drew a record crowd Friday night to Cross Creek Country Club, with more than 230 people signed up to participate. Looking over the crowd, museum Director Edwards said he was pleased with the event. “It’s been great so far,” he said. “We’ve had just a tremendous turnout, with more people attending this year than last.” Edwards said it looked like attendees, decked out in tuxedos and evening gowns, were getting into the spirit of the event. “That’s the great thing about this fund raiser,” he said. “We tried to make this a fun evening for those who attend, from the great food and great ambience to the casino-style gambling where they can win bragging rights.” He said that while the numbers haven’t been tallied, the event was on track to surpass last year’s $25,000 take. "That money is critical to help with our annual operations and programming throughout the year,” he said. And for attendee Tom Webb, who was decked out in a tuxedo and sipping on a glass of wine, the evening was less about gambling and more about helping support the local museum. “We wanted to come out and support such a worthy cause,” he said. “The museum is very important to the community, and we need to have such a first-class facility in Mount Airy.” But Webb noted that there’s nothing wrong with having a good time while supporting a worthy cause. “It’s also a chance to have a little bit of fun,” he said. “There’s good food, good fellowship and a chance to share some good wine.” Gaming for the evening featured craps, roulette and blackjack, and attendees also had the opportunity to purchase a draw-down ticket with the chance to win a $6,000 prize. And those in attendance also had the chance to bid on multiple donations at the silent auction, with prizes ranging from vacation packages to consumer electronics like an iPad. Looking over the crowd laughing and trying to beat the odds, Edwards said he was indebted to the committee that put the event together. “I owe all the credit to them,” he said. “Without their volunteer efforts, this wouldn’t have been possible.”

"The Future Lies Ahead..."

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The excitement among the alumni of J.J. Jones High School, which closed its doors in 1966, was evident even before the ribbon was cut on an exhibit featuring the school at the Mount Airy Museum of Regional History.

The exhibit was unveiled Saturday at noon during this weekend’s bi-annual reunion, which draws Jones alumni from across the country.

The display features notable moments in the school’s history, including notes about how students devoted their time and effort to build a gymnasium for the school — the only black school in the county during its time. It also features items donated by school alumni, including displays about music, arts and sports, but it also doesn’t shy away from the region’s history, with a prominent display on the Jim Crow laws of the era.

Jones served black students locally from 1936 to 1966, when it ceased to exist due to integration.

And while the spirit of family is evident in the sense of community among former students and graduates, Saturday’s unveiling was especially important to Mount Airy resident Linwood Jones, who would have graduated from the school in 1968, and attended until its doors closed in 1966.

Jones is the grandson of John J. Jones, the school’s founder and principal for 16 years, and the son of Leonidas H. Jones, its second longest-serving principal.

“It’s really hard to put into words,” Linwood Jones said quietly when talking about what the exhibit means to him. “The exhibit shows the struggle my father and grandfather went through for our education, but everyone in the Surry County community helped make this a reality.

“For me to see this in here is like bringing back my grandfather and father for the education of our community.”

Jones’ grandfather, J.J. Jones, who was born a slave in Rockingham County, died when his son — and Jones’ father — was just 13.

“His dream was to come back home and see this high school become a reality,” he said quietly. “My family placed a high value on education, and this would be very special to them both.”

Edwards said the display was long deserved, and sprang from a close relationship the museum has with the Jones Alumni Association.

“This is something that has long been on our minds and in our plans,” he said. “The stories coming out of the Jones school era are really remarkable. They tell a story about our local history that a lot of people aren’t aware of. This is a way for us to showcase a little bit of that story for the larger community.

“During the 30 years it was in operation as a segregated school, remarkable things happened there. Like many small town high schools, it really engendered that sense of community and identity, and you can see it today through their very active alumni association.”

And as the group cut the ribbon on the exhibit a tapestry on display said it all.

“We have crossed the bay, the future lies ahead.”

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