Destination: N.C. Museum of History's Tar Heel Junior Historian gallery
Posted July 10, 2014
On the third floor of the N.C. Museum of History, there's a place for kids to play a banjo, interview a North Carolinian and learn more about how historians do their jobs.
Museum visitors can find it in the History in Every Direction: Tar Heel Junior Historian Association Discovery Gallery, which opened a couple of years ago. It's part of the Tar Heel Junior Historian Association, a statewide program based at the museum that started in 1953 for kids in fourth to twelfth grades.
The association is made up of clubs at schools, historic sites, museums, homeschools and elsewhere across the state. It takes just one adult and one child to start up a club. It's free to join and members get free copies of the Tar Heel Junior Historian magazine and the chance to participate in conventions and contests each year.
The gallery at the museum displays the award-winning projects - from essays to artwork and more - from junior historians. But it also provides some hands-on activities for kids to learn how history is researched and how they can uncover the past in their own backyard.
"Our goal is to get visitors to understand there is history all around them," said Jessica Pratt, the association's program coordinator. "There is history in their family and their school. History isn't just learning names and facts and statistics."
Here, kids can learn about the primary or first-hand sources that historians use in their research - artifacts, documents, photographs, oral histories and buildings and sites. In one exhibits, kids can discover what a mystery artifact is by studying it with some of those primary sources.
In another exhibit, they can read about the same historic event by using documents from the state archive, media reports and other accounts.
As they learn more about the importance of oral historians, kids can sit down with a voice activated touchscreen to read questions into a microphone and get "answers" from video interviews of a few North Carolinians.
A small area designed for preschoolers and younger includes giant blocks to match up, drawers filled with old-fashioned toys to play with (including that banjo) and lots of books. My four-year-old has enjoyed investigating this space.
The gallery itself is a great way to extend the social studies and history lessons that kids are getting in school. It's a fun place to visit after one of the museum's regular Thursday morning storytimes.
Pratt tells me that the gallery's ultimate goal is to teach kids that they can be historians too. She hopes that after visiting the gallery, they'll go home and talk more with grandma about her life or look for artifacts in their attic.
Admission to the N.C. Museum of History and this gallery is free.