The Cape Fear Museum of History and Science is a superb museum operated by New Hanover County, North Carolina. It was founded in 1898 and maintains a collection of more than fifty-two thousand (52,000) artifacts that document the history, science, and cultures of the Lower Cape Fear. The museum is a Smithsonian Affiliate able to share collections, exhibitions and educational strategies as well as conduct joint research with the Smithsonian Institution.
Native American artifacts from the Archaic period (8000 BCE to 1000 BCE) are the oldest items in the collection. Most of the collection spans the 17th through 21st centuries to include photographs, furniture, tools, clothing, and documents. “Confederate relics” from the Civil War were its first artifacts.
The museum states that its collections contain, “artifacts that illuminate the history of childhood, education, labor, business, leisure, travel, military activity, household experiences, commerce, religion, and agricultural activities.” It is a well-organized educational experience for children and adults. There are numerous activities for children with knowledgeable staff to answer questions.
An exhibit dedicated to Wilmington native basketball superstar Michael Jordan is a favorite. The area’s ecosystem is highlighted with displays of native plants including the Venus flytrap carnivorous plant, wildlife and weather. See exhibits about the local inhabitants spanning the Native American Indians; American Revolution also known as the Revolutionary War when the Thirteen Colonies broke from the British Crown (1775-83); Industrial Revolution; Civil War also known as the War Between the States (1861-65); and, World War II (1939-45). Visitors can also “learn about the history of the racial violence that wracked the city in 1898, about segregation,” and some of the region’s 20th century stories.
Traveling and temporary exhibits may also be present. Outdoors is the well-landscaped Museum Park that teaches how humans have interacted with the region’s land and water resources that have impacted coastal Southeastern North Carolina and its history.
The Cape Fear Museum is an attraction that should not be missed. Give yourself about three hours to absorb this interesting historic background for a better understanding of the Lower Cape Fear. The museum is only a few minutes from restaurants and other activities straight down Market Street to downtown Wilmington.