Long-term exhibits in the Gallery’s main display area interpret the early exploration and attempted settlement of Roanoke Island by English colonists in the 1580s and depict the Algonquian culture indigenous to that region. Another exhibit on numismatics tells the story of North Carolina’s early nineteenth-century gold rush and includes a rare 24-coin set of Bechtler coins. Other exhibits recount the history of the University of North Carolina, the department’s collection of rare ornithological prints, the lives of the original “Siamese twins” Chang and Eng Bunker (1811-1874), and much more.
The Gallery is also responsible for displays in two special rooms that memorialize the work and contributions of two distinguished alumni of the university: Asheville native and novelist Thomas Wolfe and philanthropist John Sprunt Hill of Durham.
The Gallery features three historic rooms: the Sir Walter Raleigh Rooms, complete with late sixteenth- and seventeenth-century English furniture; the nineteenth-century library from Hayes Plantation in Edenton, N.C.; and the Early Carolina Room. The latter is decorated with mid-eighteenth century paneling from Pasquotank County, as well as furniture from the late colonial and early federal periods (ca. 1760- 1820).
Over the years, the Gallery has presented exhibitions on a wide variety of topics. Many of the exhibit labels, photographs, and artifact lists from past exhibitions are preserved in reference files. Researchers can request this information by contacting the Gallery’s staff. Descriptions of some of these exhibitions appear on our past exhibitions page.
The Gallery maintains digital collections and online exhibitions related to University history, historic moneys, political memorabilia, and more.