After getting up rather early two times out of five working days and the Saturday trip, it was too difficult to sleep longer than I normally do on weekends. After the late breakfast, a lazy rest of the morning followed and just at the time when I was about to search for anything that could serve as a lunch, my parents called me. What a surprise! The unexpected call somehow brought my attention to the time issues, realizing how late it actually got. Thus, it was only a short talk to the people close to me but currently thousands of miles away. In rush, I picked up the most important things to take with me and chewing a bagel, ran for the bus.
I caught it and thanks to that, I was walking down the familiar route from the bus station to the museum area shortly after noon. For some reason, the North Carolina Museum of History was much busier and much noisier attraction the Museum of Natural Sciences a week ago. When I was gathering my stuff, I did not consider taking my sweatshirt too and that was a mistake which affected my visit strongly. Aware I would be indoors – in other words, in an air-conditioned space – I chose to cook in my pants while walking outside but to hopefully avoid any freezing inside. Unfortunately, it did not work out the way I planned. I cooked first and then froze for most of the time in the museum.
Being out of my temperature comfort zone made the visit less enjoyable that it might have been but I still learned a lot. Upon my arrival, two racing cars captured my attention for a short ime. In the ground level there also was an exhibit called The Story of North Carolina that provided a thorough coverage of the history as ancient as the very first inhabitants thousands of years ago, through the times of Indians and pirates, including NC famous Blackbeard pirate (these two were among the peaks of the visit). Followed by, colonial times and poor rule of Lord Proprietors named by the British king, to the not so great history of slavery, Civil War and the country’s involvement in both World Wars. There the narration stopped. The museum, I think, could be proud of this exhibit. It was very informational, I though very objective, too and they did a great job in arranging artifacts (may it be a sunken pirate booty and old, fallen-apart canoe of Native Americans or 1920 Algebra Textbook), setting lively scenes (e.g. of people sawing some seeds out in the field) and dressing up figures like a black man voting for the first time or a Civil war soldier. The history of tobacco industry was not omitted, in fact, a collection of tobacco advertisements was on display. The purpose of them was questionable, yet artistically, I liked most of them.
On the ground floor, there were two more exhibits. The one remembering African American musician James Brown (Hey America! Eastern North Carolina and the Birth of Funk) was rather small but pretty interesting to even as non-musical person as me. A larger exhibit was devoted to NC State Highway Patrol. I did not know an organization like that existed, so it was nice to learn some about it and the duties of its members. Historically, it was cool to see how their equipment, clothing and guns changed over the time.
When walking around, I realized three aircrafts were “flying” above my had. Most importantly, there was a life-size replica of Wright brothers’ flyer, accompanied by a Rogallo hang glider and gyro-copter. As for the hang glider, I appreciated its bright red color which I thought was a great safety measure. However, the glider’s story was much more than just a nice color: Francis Rogallo worded on the wing together with its wife and their invention (worth a patent) gave birth to modern hang gliders. The cool fact about gyro-copter (called B-8M) was that it came as a kit and was meant for home assembly. Distributed like a toy plane model but supposed to have humans on board. No statistics on number of people who died when trying their “model” were provided. Even if it did not terminate a single life, I do not think that such a business could possibly work these days.
In the upper level, there was an exhibit focusing on the Civil War but I did not go to see it. First, I was not interested in war stuff that much and second, by the time I would have gone there, I had been freezing just too much to stay any longer. But I did visited the Rural Revival photography exhibition, which was my favorite, and North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame. The photography display made it to my life’s Best-of-Art list. The photographer’s (Scott Garlock) object of interest were old houses of American countryside. I generally like US houses but when the scene is lit in an interesting angle or there is a tree covered in fall colors next to the house, then the scene becomes really magic. Although there were a few picture I liked little less than the others, trying to pick out my favorite photograph would be completely insane.
As for the Sports Hall Fame, it nicely compensate for all the serious issues I had been exposed to earlier but I expected little more. It was not surprising that majority of the exhibit was devoted to US leading sports, i.e. football and baseball. College baseball seems to have a good reputation here, so there was a section on that as well. A wall was devoted to what was considered to be the biggest achievements of North Carolina sports. I was pleased to find a mention of hockey, namely North Carolina Hurricanes winning Stanley Cup in 2006. But there was not even a puck on the display anywhere. In the “Others” section there were some golf clubs but that was about it. I understand the temptation to celebrate the country’s most favorite sports but why there was no attempt to encourage kids to devote to other sport fields, too. Most of them probably healthier than 200 pound guys knocking each other down.
Small in size but still interesting enough were the 1920s Drug Store and David Marshall “Carbine” William’s Workshop. In the drug store, I could check some old-fashioned advertisements as well as warning boards, including the one telling the customers they had to pay there. The pay zone looked way too much like a bar and there even were some beverage faucets. I wondered whether an American wanna-be beer used to be sold there or the offer was limited to soft drinks only. It seemed that another role of drug stores at that time was that of candy stores. The selection of candies was stunning and prices looked great, too – a cent for a couple of caramels. However, one could get there many more products – face powder, soap and other cosmetics stuff, books, and even cigarettes (so the customer would be back in few years to by coughing medicine). The products shown in the store’s mahogany cabinets were not limited to those I mentioned but I had no idea what most of the things were. It was a pity they had not done a better job to keep the visitors informed. I nevertheless, enjoyed all the old, colorful packing.
As for the workshop, it belonged to a guy who was first imprisoned for a decent amount of time but turned into a gun genius – his ideas brought him several patents and to the USA, guns to use in all major wars (WWII, Korean War, Vietnam). Who knows, maybe he would have not ever come up with his gun improving ideas if he had not been put in jail. When he was serving his sentence, then the ideas started to form.
Overall (when ignoring the low temperature inside), the museum was definitely worth a visit but to me, was far less exciting than the Museum of Natural Sciences. This is probably due to my significantly stronger interest in nature than in history but I sure was glad to learn a bit about the history of the country, where I have been having such a great time. While the Story of North Carolina exhibit was sort of a ‘must’, the photography exhibition and the old drug store were unexpected but very enjoyable.
Little remote part of the museum was the outdoor History of Harvest. That was when I cheered up. First, it was warm (initially, later on I started feeling hot) out there and second, it was some Biology stuff. I saw some of the state flowers as well as key crops of Native Americans (“Three Sisters” – corn, squash and beans) and agronomically important crops including sweet potatoes (North Carolina being the country’s biggest producers), sorghum (USA being the major producer worldwide) and tobacco (as a source of oil). Thanks to my visit to the Museum of History, I saw a peanut plant for the first time! The Molecular Biologist in me appreciated the presence of the first corn variety developed through marker-assisted selection. It was so cool to see an actual outcome (though it looked liked a regular maize plant) of an approach I have heard so much about.
On the way home a big storm surprised me. I spent the time when it was worst hidden at a bus stop but the shelter could give me only little protection. It was so windy that the rain was going in there in any imaginable direction. I even could see a mass of water running down the street – that was pretty impressive.
It is thus not surprising that no roller blading took place today. At least I had enough time to finish my presentation for the lab meeting (It’s coming too close!) and to cook my lunch for Monday and Tuesday. And it was not too bad to have a little more relaxed day after skating twice this week and going on my so far biggest trip yesterday.