Daytrippin': NC Museum of History


Wooden teeth? Cherry trees? King of America? There's more to George Washington than the face on the quarter, and now through Jan. 21, you can learn more about our him at the North Carolina Museum of History in Raleigh.

The traveling exhibit, "Discover the Real George Washington," features nearly 100 items associated with George Washington from Mount Vernon, his home in Virginia.

Now for the personal disclaimers. I love history and museums, but I hate sitting in museums watching informational documentaries. I typically read about 20 percent of any information in any exhibit I walk through, choosing instead to flit from display to display picking specific things that catch my interest and learning about them.

Given that, the kids were shocked when we walked into the first room of the exhibit, because I saw a movie playing and made everyone sit down to watch. Do not skip this movie.

It's short, but it walks you through the making of three life-sized models of Washington, which are part of the exhibit. The models are of Washington at age 19, in his 40s and again when he was president in his late 50s. The models were created from digital re-creations based on clothing, false teeth and other items.

In addition to learning about Washington, you'll also learn about his wife, Martha, and her two children from a previous marriage. For example, we learned that during The Revolutionary War, which many refer to as a gentleman's war, major battles were put on hold during the winter, but troops didn't go home. They made camp for the winter until fighting began again in the spring. Martha, like the wives of many officers, would join her husband for the winter wherever he was stationed, sometimes bringing the children for visits as well.

The exhibit is broken in to three distinct sections of Washington's life: his 20s, when he worked as a surveyor; his midlife years, when he was improving his estate, Mount Vernon; and finally, the presidency. And yes, you can see the famous teeth. But be prepared to be surprised - they're not wooden. The teeth are made of bone, tusk and ivory.

The exhibit will take about 90 minutes to walk through and is fantastic opportunity to learn about Washington, his family and the estate he managed.

Once you've traveled through this exhibit, take some time to explore the rest of the museum. If there's a sports fanatic in your house, you will enjoy the N.C. Sports Hall of Fame on the third floor, which houses NASCAR legend Richard Petty's stock car and basketball great Meadowlark Lemon's uniform.

Also at the museum, stop by the 1920s drug store, and explore "Museum Sleuths," a small exhibit that displays 21 items from the museum's collection that will "befuddle and bemuse you."

After exploring the Museum of History, be sure to go across the street to the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences. This museum has the Arthropod Zoo, which is full of live animals, bugs and giant insect models. Want to see the face of a house fly magnified 50 times? This is the place for you - or your 8-year-old son.

Young children will also get a kick out of "Animal Grossology," on exhibit through

April 24. This exhibit is interactive, with game shows, videos and sounds to present science in an unusual way. If bathroom humor is popular in your house, your kids will enjoy this exhibit, which answers questions like "Why do cows chew cud?" and "What are some of the slimiest, yuckiest animals on the planet?"

On the fourth floor of the museum you'll find the Living Conservatory. Walk through this dry Central American tropical forest and butterflies flutter around you. You'll also see turtles, tarantulas, snakes and a sloth, all from a safe distance.

The Museum of Natural Sciences also has a café outside the conservatory, so it's a great place to stop for a snack. If you're looking for food, try Hillsborough Street, west of the museums. With N.C. State University across the street, you can find drive-in burger joints (Char-Grill) and pizza places (Two Guys), as well as a great cup of coffee at Global Village Organic Coffee before the drive back.

N.C. Museum of History
5 E. Edenton St.
Raleigh, N.C. 27601

Hours and Admission
Monday-Saturday 9 a.m.-5 p.m. and Sunday noon-5 p.m. Admission is free, but there is a fee for adults to view the "Discover the Real George Washington" exhibit: $10 for ages 19 and up; $8 for seniors; children 18 and under, free.

N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences
11. W. Jones St.
Raleigh, N.C. 27601

Hours and Admission
Monday-Saturday 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday noon-5 p.m. Admission to the museum is free, but there is a charge for special exhibits such as "Animal Grossology," which costs $8 for adults; $5 for students and seniors; $4 for children.

Kim Justen, a freelance writer, lives in Advance and is the mother of two.


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