H. H. Brimley, founding director of the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences. Image from the State Archives.

When the first Earth Day was celebrated in 1970, activists sought to harness the increased consciousness Americans had about the environment and the counterculture movement then sweeping the nation to motivate people to speak out and act on environmental issues.

In celebration of the watershed moment 46 years ago, here are the stories of eight North Carolina conservation leaders and the places they sought to protect:


Baum at Jockey’s Ridge. Image from Friends of Jockey’s Ridge State Park.

Carolista Baum. After her children saw a bulldozer flatten out part of Jockey’s Ridge on a quiet morning in August 1973, Baum went to investigate and discovered that the dune was slated for destruction to make way for a residential development. Baum planted herself in the way of the earth moving equipment, halting construction.

She went on to help found the People to Preserve Jockey’s Ridge, which led to the creation of a state park in 1975.


Plan Your Visit to Baum’s Legacy, Jockey’s Ridge State Park →



“Big Hugh” Bennett. Image from the N.C. Museum of History.

“Big Hugh” Bennett. Now know as the “father of soil conservation,” Hugh Hammond Bennett grew up in the drainage basin of the Pee Dee River in Anson County and became aware of the woeful effects of soil erosion at an early age.

He is widely credited with selling the benefits of soil conservation to a skeptical public and spreading the message of the importance of topsoil preservation among farmers. Bennett served with the federal Soil Conservation Service for 50 years.

Learn More About Bennett’s Life on NCpedia →


H. H. Brimley. After emigrating to North Carolina from England, Brimley and his brother opened a taxidermy shop in Raleigh. They quickly gained reputations as two of the South’s leading naturalists.

After Brimley created an exhibit on waterfowl and fishes for the State Exposition of 1884, the state Department of Agriculture found the exhibit too valuable to discard. The department found a more permanent place in its halls for the exhibit and, in time, found a more permanent place for Brimley, too, as the exhibit’s curator and director of the museum it began, now the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences.


Explore the Museum Brimley Helped Create →



Kephart camping in the Smokies. Image from his book.

Horace Kephart. A former librarian from Pennsylvania, Kephart came to the Great Smoky Mountains of North Carolina in 1904 seeking solace. He would spent the rest of his life living outside of Bryson City, writing about the environment and outdoor life. By 1913, he had published three books on self-reliant living and the natural world.

An early advocate of the mountain region, Kephart tirelessly promoted the creation of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. His book Our Southern Highlanders, published in 1913, is the classic work on the region.


Read More About Kephart on NCpedia →


Hugh Morton. Perhaps best-known as the developer of Grandfather Mountain, which he inherited in 1952, Morton was also instrumental in saving some of the state’s historic treasures including the Battleship North Carolina and Cape Lookout Lighthouse.

Morton gained notoriety for his fight to keep the Blue Ridge Parkway from crossing Grandfather Mountain and spoiling its aesthetic appeal, and took close to a quarter-million photographs which helped promote North Carolina’s scenic beauty.


Plan Your Trip to Morton’s Grandfather Mountain →


Margaret Nygard. After the city of Durham announced plans to build a reservoir on the Eno River to increase the area’s water supply, Nygard and her husband ignited a grassroots campaign to fight to preserve the unique history and environment of the Eno and advocate for the creation of a state park along it.


Discover the Magic of the Eno at Eno River State Park →


T. Gilbert Pearson. Originally from Illinois, Pearson settled in North Carolina after studying biology and botany at Guilford College and UNC. He had a strong interest in birds and assembled one of the largest collections of bird eggs in nation at the time.

After writing his first book, Stories of Bird Life, Gilbert became active in policy work, founding the Abudon Society of North Carolina and advocating for state and national legislation protecting birds and their habitats. He founded the International Committee for Bird Preservation in 1922 and served as its first president for more than a decade.


Dive Deeper into Pearson’s Story on NCpedia →



Carl Schenck. Image from NCSU Libraries.

Carl Schenck. A German by birth, Schenck came to North Carolina to manage the woodlands on Biltmore Estate for the Vanderbilt family. He started the nation’s first school of forestry on the Biltmore grounds in 1898, teaching students about the care of nurseries; the transplant and cultivation of seedlings; timber selection; felling; logging; and sawing, and using Biltmore’s tens of thousands of acres of forest as a classroom.


Read More About Schenck on NCpedia →


This Earth Day weekend we hope you get in touch with North Carolina’s scenic beauty and natural splendor at the state park, aquarium or science museum near you or at the North Carolina Zoo.

You can also learn more about the conservation movement in North Carolina on NCpedia and find a guide to resources related to North Carolina’s environmental heritage produced by the State Library.

Happy exploring!


Earlier this week, Dr. Jb Minter and other members of the veterinary team North Carolina Zoo gave Reilly, the zoo’s 17 year-old male African lion his annual checkup.

Reilly’s preventative health exam, which was conducted under general anesthesia, included a physical and dental exam, vaccinations and blood draw. Abdominal ultrasonography was also performed to check Reilly’s internal organs.


Learn More About the N.C. Zoo’s African Lions →


Here’s a look behind-the-scenes at this important health measure:

Getting Ready. Veterinary technician Heather Shaub, offloads the equipment needed for Reilly’s annual examination. Nearly all of the Zoo’s medical equipment is portable and can be moved to any location in the zoo.

Checking Vital Signs. Dr. Jb Minter, the Zoo’s Senior Veterinarian, monitors Reilly’s vital signs during the exam. Reilly was anesthetized and intubated for the procedure.


A Full Check Up.  Dr. Lori Westmoreland, a first year Zoological and Aquatic Medicine Resident, performs a thorough physical examination on Reilly during his annual check-up.



The Zoo, in partnership with North Carolina State College of Veterinary Medicine and the North Carolina Aquariums, conduct a formal American College of Zoological Medicine approved residency program in zoological and aquatic animal medicine.

Checking Reilly’s Teeth. Veterinary technician, Andrea Persson, conducts a dental examination, which is an integral part of Reilly’s annual examination.


Drawing Blood. Veterinary Technicians, Andrea Persson and Heather Shaub obtain a blood sample from the Reilly’s tail.  Blood samples provide useful information in evaluating the health status of animals at the Zoo.


Wrapping Up with an Ultrasound.  Dr. Lori Westmoreland, under the guidance of Dr. Jb Minter, performs an abdominal ultrasound on Reilly. Abdominal ultrasound allows veterinary professionals to see a visualization of Reilly’s internal organs and gives the veterinary staff a better understanding of what is going on inside the body.


The North Carolina Zoo’s veterinary team and animal care staff are dedicated to providing superior health care for all of the animals housed there, and annual checkups allow the veterinary team to pick up on subtle changes early and act if needed.

Reilly was given a clean bill of health and returned to the exhibit with female Mekita and their offspring the following day.


Learn More About Animal Welfare at the N.C. Zoo →


Devastation from the Flood of 1916. Image from State Archives.

Devastation from the Flood of 1916. Image from State Archives.

In mid-July 1916, the remnants of two hurricanes collided over western North Carolina, inundating the mountain region and the western Piedmont with historic rainfall.

The result was catastrophic. Landslides wiped out whole families. Currents ripped babies from their parents’ arms. Rivers washed away thousands of jobs. When the water finally receded, at least fifty lay dead, damages totaled in the millions of dollars, and a thick black sludge remained where crops once stood. The scope of the devastation was almost inconceivable.

Exhibit Examines Flood’s Impact

One hundred years later, the storm remains one of the worst ever experienced in the Tar Heel state. To commemorate the event, the North Carolina Office of Archives and History has developed a traveling exhibit that will visit 12 different venues throughout the region over the course of the next year.

The exhibit, entitled “So Great the Devastation: The 1916 Flood,” debuts at the History Museum of Catawba County in downtown Newton next Tuesday, March 1.

A schedule of the exhibit stops over the next six months appears in the table below. Click on the Venue name for directions.

Dates Venue City/Town
March 1 to March 31 History Museum of Catawba County Newton
April 1 to April 30 Madison County Public Library Marshall
May 1 to May 31 Mountain Gateway Museum Old Fort
June 1 to July 15 Pack Memorial Library Asheville
July 16 Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College Asheville
July 17 to August 31 Belmont Historical Society Belmont
September 1 to September 30 Lincoln County Historical Association Lincolnton

4/22 Update -additional tour stops have been announced. Check out our website for the whole list.

Symposium to Take a Closer Look

As part of the commemorative initiatives, the Office will also be hosting a symposium on the flood at Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College on July 16. We’ll announce more details about this landmark event as they become available.


“Presidents North Carolina Gave the Nation” outside the State Capitol

When you think of a state with a rich presidential legacy, chances are you think of Virginia (home to eight men who have held the nation’s top job) or Ohio (home to seven), but North Carolina has some rich presidential history of its own, and in honor of Presidents Day, we’ve share some of it here.


James K. Polk

How Many Presidents Are From North Carolina? It’s Debatable.

If you visit the State Capitol in Raleigh, you’ll see a statue honoring the three “Presidents North Carolina Gave the Nation,” but many sources list just two presidents as calling the Tar Heel State home. The debate surrounds Andrew Jackson, who was born right on then unmarked line between North and South Carolina.

James K. Polk, our 11th president, was born in the Carolina borderlands as well, though farther west near Pineville. Polk is perhaps best remembered for spearheading the Mexican-American War, which greatly increased the size of United States, and a memorial representing his birthplace is now one of 27 state historic sites.


Andrew Johnson

The 17th president, Andrew Johnson, was born in a kitchen in Raleigh and ascended to the nation’s top job after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. The only U.S. senator who remained loyal to the Union during the Civil War, Johnson was impeached for his handling of Reconstruction, though he was acquitted at trial.

While North Carolina claims all three presidents as native sons, all were elected to office while residents of Tennessee.

A Few Notable Presidential Visits

Our friends at the North Carolina Collection at UNC-Chapel Hill have noted that every president since Chester A. Arthur, who was in office between 1881 and 1885, except for Warren Harding, has visited North Carolina.

We’ve mapped five of the more interesting visits below, from our first president’s stay at Tryon Palace to the time President Lyndon Johnson’s kicked off a tour of Appalachia in Rocky Mount, hundreds of miles from the region.

Explore More With Our Collections and Other Resources


A bumper sticker from Terry Sanford’s 1976 presidential campaign, now held by the N.C. Museum of History.

Our collections are abound in photographs, campaign ephemera, documents and artwork related to our nation’s 44 chief executives. Start exploring on our digital collections and collections database. The Presidential Signatures portion of the Treasures of the State Archives and State Library is a great place to begin, too.

Our This Day in North Carolina History Project contains more interesting anecdotes connected to the U.S. presidents from First Lady Dolley Madison’s dramatic rescue of White House treasures to the mysterious connection between Raleigh and the JFK assassination. Check out NCpedia for more in-depth explorations of people, places and topics related to the presidency.

Staff from the N.C. Transportation Museum in Spencer showing off their Panthers pride.

Staff from the N.C. Transportation Museum in Spencer
showing off their Panthers pride.

Governor Pat McCrory today made a wager with Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper over this weekend’s Super Bowl between the Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos.

If the Panthers prevail as Governor McCrory predicts, Hickenlooper will donate Colorado products to North Carolina food banks and animal shelters. In the unlikely event that the Panther lose, Governor McCrory will donate North Carolina turkey products to Colorado food banks and animals shelters.

Two state historic sites and the North Carolina Zoo have followed Governor McCrory’s lead by either accepting or making friendly wagers with their counterparts in Colorado.

Zoo Directors Put State Pride On The Line

The North Carolina Zoo accepted the Denver Zoo’s Super Bowl challenge. The losing zoo’s director will be welcoming visitors next week in the winning team’s jersey.

Transportation Museums Participate in Turntable Challenge

The North Carolina Transportation Museum will deck out its diesel engines in Broncos regalia with staff riding the turntable while singing the Broncos fight song if the Panthers lose, in addition to supplying to the Colorado Railroad Museum with a number of the Tar Heel State’s favorite foods.

This afternoon the Colorado museum accepted NCTM’s challenge.

Gold ore is being wagered by the Reed Gold Mine..

Gold ore is being wagered by the Reed Gold Mine..

Mine Museums Wager Gold

North Carolina and Colorado are connected through the spread of gold discoveries across the United States during the 19th century, and Reed Gold Mine and the Western Museum of Mining and Industry are raising the stakes on Super Bowl wagers by putting a gold ore specimen valued between $40 and $50 on the line.

Discounted Admission for #PanthersPride

To celebrate the Panthers and help get everyone in the team spirit, the North Carolina Zoo will be offering $2 off admission to guests wearing Panthers’ gear now through Sunday.

The North Carolina Aquariums at Pine Knoll Shores and Fort Fisher and Jennette’s Pier will be offering $1 off admission to visitors in Panthers’ gear Sunday only.

The “Greensboro Four” at Woolworth’s. Photo from the (Greensboro) News & Record.

Fifty-six years ago today four students, now known as the “Greensboro Four,” sat down at the lunch counter at the Woolworth’s Department Store in downtown Greensboro and asked to be served. They were refused service, launching a sit-in movement that would spread throughout North Carolina and the South and transform the struggle for civil rights for African Americans.

The first page of a March 1960 memo describing Hodges' constitutional authority in law enforcement.

The first page of March 1960 memo describing Hodges’ constitutional authority in law enforcement.

Several documents available online through the North Carolina Digital Collections show how North Carolina Governor Luther Hodges and other state officials responded to the situation and demonstrate how public opinion was divided over the protests.

The Response from State Officials

The first—a public statement made by state attorney general Malcom B. Seawell on February 10, 1960—argues that though North Carolina did not have a law mandating the segregation of restaurants, businesses could refuse to serve whoever they choose.

Seawell calls the protesters as out-of-state “trouble-makers” and describes their actions as having:

posed and continue to pose a serious threat to the peace and good order in the communities in which they occur…Such trouble-makers are irresponsible, and their actions can only result in irreparable harm being done to racial relations here in North Carolina.

He also argues that the colleges which student protesters attend should work to curb their student actions, a sentiment Hodges later echoed in a phone conversation with a Woolworth’s executive.

Two memos—one laying out the governor’s constitutional authority to deal with the sit-in demonstrations and another describing the actions of governors in other states in similar situations—were immediately followed by a statement Hodges made on March 10 where he expressed his view on the sit-ins, saying:

…I do not think these demonstrations do any good or in the final analysis will even serve to accomplish the objectives of the demonstrators….I have no sympathy whatsoever for any group of people who deliberately engage in activities which any reasonable person can see will result in a breakdown of law and order as well as interference with the normal and proper operation of a private business.

A letter to Gov. Luther Hodges opposing the sit-in protesters.

A letter to Gov. Luther Hodges opposing the sit-in protesters.

The Public’s View

Four letters sent to Hodges’ office on the sit-ins reflect how divided the state’s citizens were on the issue.

A Burlington couple called on Hodges to close N.C. A&T and save what they viewed as wasted taxpayer money, while a Durham woman wrote that the demonstrations were “disgusting” and said that many of the protesters were “from the North.”

On the other side of the debate, a UNC-Chapel Hill student penned a note to express solidarity with the sit-in demonstrators and an ECU student rebuked the governor for not promoting freedom and free expression for all.

More to Explore

The papers described here are part of a larger Civil Rights digital collection that helps tell the story of the struggle for justice in North Carolina. An online exhibit from the N.C. Museum of History tells that story in another way.

A succinct overview of the Civil Rights movement can be found as NCpedia as can dozens of other in-depth articles on the subject.


Conservation treatment of The Pentecost, circa 1530 (by a follower of Bernard van Orley, oil on panel, 37 1/2 x 43 1/2 in, Purchased with funds from the State of North Carolina).

In the past few years, the N.C. Museum of Art has been making headlines for using cutting-edge technology to conserve art that is often centuries old.

During a webcast next week, we’ll go behind-the-scenes to the museum’s conservation lab and talk with conservators about how they do their work and why it’s important.

Associate Conservator Perry Hurt will review the 21st century process of laser cleaning 16th century artworks (demonstrated in this video), while Chief Conservator Bill Brown and other members of the museum’s conservation team will explain the process of cleaning, varnishing and retouching some of the museum’s oldest paintings.

As part of the program, viewers will have the opportunity to ask questions of NCMA’s conservation staff live.

The webcast will be held Thursday, February 4, at 11 a.m. and registration for school groups and individuals is now open online.


Register Now for the Webcast →


This program is part of the ongoing DNCRTV series, produced by the N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources, which brings the state’s cultural institutions and natural treasures to viewers wherever they are across the state, nation and world.

It is organized in tandem with NCMA’s Actual State exhibition, opening February 20, in which conservator Noelle Ocon will work through the conservation process before the public in the museum gallery.


NCMA Associate Conservator Perry Hurt works on a painting in the museum’s lab.