Last Friday I had the opportunity to attend the North Carolina Literary and Historical Association 116th meeting and the Federation of North Carolina Historical Societies 41st meeting that was held- well, all over Raleigh with the the deputy secretary of the N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources and director of the Office of Archives, History and Parks, Dr. Kevin Cherry. First we toured behind the scenes at the NC Archives and viewed singular artifacts such as Colonel Isaac Avery’s note to his father that he wrote as he lay dying on the Gettysburg battlefield after being shot from his horse. We also gazed upon the log book for the CSS Shenandoah, the ship that fired the last shot of the American Civil War. We also saw John Adam’s ‘Thoughts on Government’, a letter he wrote in 1776 in his efficient handwriting to the delegates of North Carolina.
From there we walked several blocks to the spacious and advanced Office of State Archaeology Research Center (OSARC). There, I really geeked out because archaeology was what I was doing before I went into librarianship. I am sure that Emily McDowell, the OSARC lab assistant who gave us the tour, was annoyed at my many questions. In the storage facility we learned that the artifacts in the banana boxes were not yet curated and I glimpsed an enigmatic box with ‘Mystery’ written in marker on it. We also learned how not to conserve Native American pottery when were shown a pot covered in masking tape.
Our next stop was the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences and a tour behind the scenes with the chief of research and collections, Dr. Jason Cryon. There, we delved into the paleontology storage area where I saw giant femurs of sauropods still in their plaster from the field. We also got to see countless specimens of birds and mammals that are a part of their research collection. It brought back fond memories of when I was a biology major, before I switched to anthropology.
Afterwards, we retired to the Doubletree Inn on Hillsborough Street to watch various awards being presented and then heard speakers on Sir Walter Raleigh (it was actually about the pageant in Raleigh in 1920 to celebrate the 300th anniversary of his death) and another on George Washington’s Southern tour in 1920.
A repeated theme of the gathering was to support your scientific and cultural institutions through visits and donations. Many are afraid that money, especially federal money, may dry up in the near future. So support them with your feet and your dollars to keep them doing great things!
Monday I had the chance to stop by and visit Lewis Neal and his collection of Wilson County historical artifacts in his garage turned history museum. There I was fascinated by the breadth and depth of his collection as well as taken in by the hospitality and pleasant conversation with Lewis and his wife Tina. We talked about everything from segregation to Joshua Barnes (a founder of Wilson) to Elvis to college football (his grandson plays football for LSU and Lewis had just returned the day before from a game in New York).
Lewis was on his on at the age of thirteen and survived by picking cotton and tobacco while staying with any acquaintance that would give him a place to sleep. Eventually he became a successful truck driver, married and raised several children. All the while his natural curiosity was fed through collecting historical artifacts from all over the area that dealt with any aspect of Wilson County History. These artifacts fill his garage, but it isn’t cluttered, the place is curated like a museum. Most every object has a label with a title or a description. Newspaper articles are framed on the wall or on the ground in giant poster frames separated by subject. There are also a great many binders filled with articles and documents on every Wilson County subject you can imagine.
Mr. Neal’s collection is a hidden, cultural treasure of Wilson County.
Yesterday I was able to attend the unveiling of Wilson’s new Civil War Trails Marker for the Wilson Confederate Military Hospital No.2 Museum (see earlier post). There I met the mayor of Wilson, the NC tourism director and John Hackney, the WWII P-51 pilot I posted a picture of recently. The marker looks great but the museum still needs a lot of work. However, it was very interesting to walk inside of the building and see the restoration in progress.
Last night I was fortunate to be able to hear a lecture on the history of baseball in Wilson, NC from local historian and resident comedian, Keith Barnes. The lecture was set in the North Carolina Baseball Museum, which is housed at the historic 73 year old Fleming stadium in Wilson. The history of baseball in the town was much more rich than I had known. It started in the late 1800’s with club teams that eventually became minor league farm teams in the early 1900’s. Anecdotes of the famous playesr that passed through included such titanic greats as Jim Thorpe and Rod Carew to recent phenoms such as Justin Verlander (currently the highest paid pitcher in the MLB). I believe that the fondest memory of the of the attendees was when the Red Sox played the Phillies at the stadium in the early 50’s. Where Ted Williams’ batting practice before the game was the highlight of many of their childhoods. But the lecture was not just about the players, but also of the the local heckling legends, bat boys, kids jumping the fence, an early Elvis concert (nobody knew him then) and the filming of the rain-out scene from Bull Durham with Kevin Costner in Fleming stadium. Also, the man whom I was sitting next to, Earl Boykin, batted against the pitching great Gaylord Perry right there at Fleming Stadium (he fared poorly). The stadium is now home to the Wilson Tobs of the Coastal Plain League.
At the North Carolina Museum of History you will be able to view the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation for free from May 15- June 16. This will be a major part of the Freedom Coming, Freedom for All exhibit.
“As a milestone on the path to slavery’s final abolishment, the Emancipation Proclamation has assumed a place among the great documents of human freedom,” says Archivist of the United States David S. Ferriero. “We are honored to share this official Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation for the exhibit Freedom Coming, Freedom for All at the North Carolina Museum of History.”
Source History for all the People