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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!

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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.

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Aquarists at the N.C. Aquarium at Fort Fisher check sea turtles for strength and mobility.

Last week, the North Carolina Aquariums worked with a number of state and federal partners to rescue more than 600 cold-stunned turtles that turned up on the North Carolina coast after the drop in temperature.

Four Questions About Cold-Stunned Turtles

As we shared news of this effort led by the Aquariums, we received several questions about the science of sea turtles and the cold-stunned phenomenon. We consulted with some of the experts at the aquariums and wanted to share some answers they gave us.

What, exactly, does “cold-stunned” mean? Does it cause permanent damage?

“Cold-stunning” is a physical response to cold water temperatures. As the turtle’s body temperature falls, its body systems start to shut down. They become paralyzed with a decreased heart rate and lethargy, followed by shock, pneumonia and possibly death. It’s similar to what happens when humans become hypothermic. 

Often, the turtles are found floating inshore (shallow coastal waters and sounds) or stranded on beaches.


Rehabilitated cold-stunned turtles just before their release.

Is this something that’s seen every year of the North Carolina coast?

Cold-stunning is typically seen each year to some extent along the Eastern Seaboard, starting in the turtles’ northern range (New England) and moving south as seasonal temperatures take effect. In mid-December, the North Carolina Aquariums assisted with a large cold-stunning event that occurred in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, by taking in turtles for rehab.

This year’s cold-stunning event is unique because of its severity. The rapid and drastic change in temperatures led to a record number of cold-stunned turtles. 

In an average season, the N.C. Aquariums might only rehab between 40 and 60 turtles. The season has just begun, and already they have taken in more than 400 turtles.

How are the turtles rehabilitated?

The turtles are assessed by veterinary teams from N.C. State University College of Veterinary Medicine and state Aquariums husbandry staff. Some simply need time in warmer water temperatures to regain strength and mobility.

Others need extensive care due to infections, pneumonia and injuries. So, there’s a range of treatments depending on the severity.

Members of the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences’ Living Collections Section also volunteered to rehabilitate seven juvenile green sea turtles that required several weeks of medical care.

Several of the turtles have already been released into the wild.


A girl meets a rehabilitated turtle just before its release.

Is there a reason mostly green sea turtles are affected?

In cold-stunning events, aquarists typically see juvenile turtles and mostly green and Kemp’s ridley turtles. Each turtle species is sensitive to different water temperatures. Age and size have an effect, too. Greens start to stun when water temperatures reach the mid-50s. Whereas, a larger loggerhead sea turtle might be fine.

There are various theories on why this all happens. One is that the turtles are young and don’t know yet to move closer out to the Gulf Stream as temperatures drop.  Another is that because of the sudden weather change, they just didn’t have time to get out.

Where You Can Learn More

You can learn more about sea turtles by visiting the North Carolina Aquariums on the coast. Though the N.C. Aquarium on Roanoke Island is closed through March. The aquariums at Fort Fisher and Pine Knoll Shores are both open and will offer free admission to everyone on January 18 in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

The North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher also has a great educational website on sea turtles that you can explore from the comfort of your own home.

The North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores offers special behind-the-scenes tours, where you can see how sea turtles are cared for.

How You Can Help

Both the N.C. Aquariums and the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences need your support to keep doing this important work. Both the aquariums (use promo code: SEATURTLE2016) and the museum accept donations online.

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The annual lighting of the state holiday tree in Raleigh, ornament making in Asheville and a demonstration of military life on North Carolina’s western frontier in Statesville are just a few of the opportunities for fun and discovery you’ll find this weekend with the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources.

Here are 18 suggestions to help you make the most of your weekend:

1. Join Gov. Pat McCrory for the state tree lighting and holiday festival at the State Capitol in Raleigh Thursday.

2. Learn how Christmas was celebrated by Civil War soldiers and sailors at home and in the field at the CSS Neuse Interpretive Center Saturday in Kinston.

3. Meet historical figures from the Lower Cape Fear region and hear some seasonal stories from the area at the N.C. Maritime Museum in Southport Friday as part of the town-wide Winterfest celebration.

4. Explore two of Raleigh‘s iconic landmarks-the Executive Mansion and the State Capitol-decorated for the season and open for tours throughout the weekend.

5. Make a holiday ornament Saturday at the Thomas Wolfe Memorial in Asheville.

6. See how soldiers braved the harsh winter on North Carolina’s western frontier Saturday at Fort Dobbs in Statesville.

7. Attend an authentic candlelit service at the ruins of St. Philips Anglican Church and explore how American colonists celebrated Christmas at Brunswick Town/Fort Anderson’s 18th Century Christmas Saturday in Winnabow.

8. Enjoy a concert of classical Christmas selections by Mozart, Bach and others Saturday in Chapel Hill.

9. Spend a festive holiday afternoon with Duke Homestead in Durham Sunday, as part of the site’s Victorian Family Christmas.

10. Delight in the sights, sounds and tastes of Christmases past with music, hearth-baked food, children’s activities and special tours at Historic Bath Saturday.

11. See Iron Man 3 Friday as part of the N.C. Museum of History’s Starring North Carolina!film series in Raleigh.

12. Celebrate the season with Historic Edenton, which will be hosting caroling at the 1767 Chowan County Courthouse and the annual James Iredell House holiday “groaning board”throughout the weekend.

13. Experience the spectacle of a colonial Christmas at Tryon Palace complete with fireworks, fire-eating, magic tricks and meetings with military re-enactors representing 300 years of history throughout the weekend in New Bern.

14. Hear the music and taste the food of an 1897 Christmas in Fayetteville at the Museum of the Cape Fear’s Holiday Jubilee Sunday.

15. Tour the stately buildings at Historic Halifax decorated for the season Saturday.

16. Join Alamance Battleground in Burlington for dulcimer music, refreshments and musket firings as part of its annual holiday open house Saturday.

17. See 18th century craft demonstrations as you listen to period music and sample seasonal treats at the House in Horseshoe’s holiday open house Saturday in Sanford.

18. Take a family-friendly tour of the Small Treasures exhibition at the N.C. Museum of Art in Raleigh.

Check out DCR’s calendar for more information on these and other events, and a enjoy a great North Carolina weekend!

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It’s a busy week at North Carolina Historical Publications! Another new title, Native Americans in Early North Carolina: A Documentary History is now available for sale.

This landmark work chronicles through primary sources the Native American experience in North Carolina from the earliest European explorations in the late 16th century through the last decades of the 18th century. Documents in the volume are drawn from journals and other personal accounts, the correspondence of both private citizens and government officials, land grants and deeds, court records, acts of the Assembly, reports and correspondence of government agencies involved in Indian affairs, records of the Executive Council, newspapers, governors’ papers, records of the Moravians, Church of England records, and the laws of North Carolina. General subjects presented through the transcribed sources are folkways, religion, trade, land (possession and dispossession), war, interaction with North Carolina society, and reservations.

Native Americans in Early North Carolina: A Documentary History retails for $20. Click here to order a copy through the online Historical Publications Shop.

Historical Publications is also offering a Documentary Histories of Early North Carolina set of African Americans in Early North CarolinaNative Americans in Early North Carolina and Society in Early North Carolina for $33.00 (plus shipping and N.C. sales tax), a 40% savings off the purchase of the three books separately.

If you have questions about volume 3 of the Native Americans in Early North Carolina or about the Documentary Histories of Early North Carolina set, please contact Bill Owens by phone at (919) 733-7442, ext. 225, or by e-mail.

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Charlotte Hawkins Brown

All this month we’re bringing you stories from North Carolina women’s history. Check back here each week day for a new tidbit on the women of our state’s past.

Noted African-American educator and founder of the Palmer Memorial Institute, Dr. Charlotte Hawkins Brown was born in Henderson. She moved to Massachusetts with her family when she was young, but returned to North Carolina in 1901 to help educate southern blacks.

In 1902, Brown established the Palmer Memorial Institute in Sedalia. She named the school for Alice Freeman Palmer, a former president of Wellesley College, who was a friend and benefactor. It first operated out of an old blacksmith shop, but eventually grew to house hundreds of students in more than a dozen buildings. Palmer grew to become known as an elite black preparatory school, hosting students from all over the country and world.

During her tenure at Palmer, Brown actively toured, speaking on behalf of women’s suffrage and racial equality. She devoted her life to the improvement of the African American community’s social standing and was active in the National Council of Negro Women, an organization founded by celebrated educator Mary McLeod Bethune in 1935. As president of the North Carolina State Federation of Negro Women’s Clubs, Brown also directed African American women’s formal civic experiences for more than 20 years.

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