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NC history museum expansion plans could mean move from downtown

Posted May 1, 2015

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— As the years go by, the North Carolina Museum of History needs more space to catalog the state's growing past.

The museum's permanent exhibition, the Story of North Carolina, relates the state's history from prehistoric days through the civil rights struggles of the 1960s.

"Even with a 20,000-square-foot exhibit, there isn't enough space to continue the last 50 years of history," museum director Ken Howard.

State lawmakers approved a study last year to explore the best way to expand the 20-year-old building, which stretches across the block between the State Capitol and the Legislative Building.

The three main options are adding a floor and expanding along Jones Street, using a parking lot across Wilmington Street for an addition or moving out of downtown and building a new museum on state-owned land near the North Carolina Museum of Art on Blue Ridge Road.

"It would put us right across from the art museum and give us that synergy that we now enjoy with the natural sciences museum," Howard said of the last option.

The North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, located across Bicentennial Mall from the history museum, got its own addition in 2012 with the Nature Research Center, while the art museum opened a new gallery building in 2010.

Howard said the history museum is next in line for an expansion.

"I think we'd like to think at the Museum of History that it's our time," he said.

Officials should have a report by early September about the best option, and the museum would then begin a campaign to raise private and public money, he said, noting that it would be five or six years before any project begins.

6 Comments

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  • Mark Hubbard May 2, 2015
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    I had an idea to move the Seaboard building to the corner of Wilmington and Edenton and let this be an annex to the history museum. The Seaboard building is also eating up land that modern office buildings could be put on, along Salisbury St. Win win.

  • George Herbert May 1, 2015
    user avatar

    Moving it away from downtown doesn't make sense to me. I see too many out-of-town school groups taking advantage of the close proximity of the museums to the Legislature and Capitol. I bet most of them don't make it out to the art museum on their visit to Raleigh. I wonder if there's a way they could expand down--using the employee parking deck underneath the current museum.

  • Chris Johnson May 1, 2015
    user avatar

    Moving the museum from downtown would be disastrous and a big mistake... not quite as bad as the decision to build the arena where it currently it is twenty years ago, but not too far behind. Its a huge asset in its current location, not only as a museum but also as a special events center. What would go in its place? Very worst case would be state offices which is what I imagine would happen. If relocating is a must, why not consider a site on the Dorothea Dix campus/Future COR Park... or even on NC State's Springhill site which is immediately adjacent. For those that didn't know, the Museum of Art used to be downtown as well, across from the Capital. As far as parking goes, there's plenty... people will just never get used to the idea of paying for it nor will they get used to the idea of walking a block or two. Besides, before long there will be an additional garage on the lot to the east. Downtown needs more amenities for families, the last thing we need is to take them away.

  • Forest Hazel May 1, 2015
    user avatar

    If they expand onto the parking lot on Jones St. across from the NC Archives, they will create a parking nightmare for anyone wanting to access the Archives, the Museums, or pretty much anything in the vicinity. Batter to put it out on Blue Ridge Road where there is more room.

  • Debbie Rinaldo May 1, 2015
    user avatar

    Ken will make it a success no matter where it goes!

  • Charlie Jaxon May 1, 2015
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    That might not be a bad thing. Parking downtown Raleigh is bad enough and then add in the museum having an event, It's a nightmare. There has got to be a better place to build a new museum with more accessible parking.