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Go Ask Mom

History museum to open new kid-focused exhibit exploring N.C. governors

Posted October 12, 2016

For his 1961 Inaugural Ball, Gov. Terry Sanford wore this tuxedo and his wife, Margaret Sanford, selected this pink dress. The tuxedo, a recent donation to the N.C. Museum of History, is now reunited with the gown, which has been in the museum collection since Mrs. Sanford donated it in 1973.

As all eyes are focused on Election Day in a few weeks, the N.C. Museum of History will open a new exhibit focused on North Carolina governors that's designed for elementary school kids.

Discover Your Governors will introduce kids to the office and feature hands-on interactives, artifacts, photographs and other items that explore the state's more than 200 years of gubernatorial history. The exhibit opens Oct. 22 and will run through Aug. 6, 2017. Admission will be free.

“This is the first time the Museum of History has aimed a gubernatorial exhibit toward elementary students, and we’re excited about engaging children and helping them learn about civics and history,” says RaeLana Poteat, the museum's curator of political and social history, in a press release. “We also enjoyed collaborating with students from Raleigh’s A. B. Combs Leadership Magnet Elementary for one of the exhibit’s video interactives. The children asked great questions about what it is like to be governor, and the video features answers from several former North Carolina governors. There’s nothing like hearing answers straight from the source!”

The exhibit will showcase artifacts - from personal items to inaugural gowns and political campaign materials. Among the gowns is a yellow dress worn by "First Kid" Merle Umstead, daughter of William B. Umstead. She wore the dress at age 10 to her father’s Inaugural Ball in 1953.

As part of the opening of the exhibit, the downtown Raleigh museum will offer some special events for students and educators. Here's what's planned:

History Corner: Here Comes the Gov!
Wednesday, Nov. 2, 10-11 a.m.
Ages 6-9 (with adult)
$3 plus tax per child; $1 plus tax for Associates/museum members
To register, visit For information, call 919-807-7988.
What do our state’s governors do? One thing they have to do is communicate, but how did they do that before our electronic age? Learn how as you visit the Discover Your Governors exhibit in the lobby, then try out quill and steel-nib pens or a typewriter.

History Hunters: Discover the Governors
Wednesday, Nov. 2, 11:15 a.m.-12:15 p.m.
Ages 10-13
$3 plus tax per child; $1 plus tax for Associates/museum members
To register, visit For information, call 919-807-7988.
Discover North Carolina’s governors in our current exhibit, and learn how that job has changed since the 1700s. Could you have voted in the elections for William Tryon? David Reid? Joseph Broughton? or Bev Perdue? Find out, and experiment with communication tools of the different times.

Discover Your Governors Discovery Tour
Grades 3-8, one hour, maximum 35 students, docent led.
Offered Oct. 25-May on weekdays.
Fee: $30 per class. Tour meets N.C. Essential Standards for Grades 3-8 Social Studies.
Registration details are on the museum's group tours page.
Have North Carolina’s governors always had access to social media and computers to link them with citizens across the state? This tour will focus on our state’s governors from the 18th through the 21st centuries. Students will examine how governors were elected, and learn how changing technologies have influenced communication with our state’s leaders.


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