In 1983, the citizens of Kenly, NC were trying to find a way to attract visitors traveling down interstate 95. The museum started off with the name Tobacco Land Farm Tours; visitors would be shown a quick slideshow and then taken to a nearby tobacco farm. These tours were very successful and led to the expansion of the museum. Five acres of land were purchased for the construction of a building, and in 1986 the Tobacco Museum of North Carolina had its grand opening. The farmstead that is now located outside is known as the Iredell Brown farmstead and it was acquired by the museum in 1991. The house, outside kitchen, tobacco barn, smokehouse, and milk shed were all restored and moved to the grounds. By this time the official name of Tobacco Farm Life Museum was given in order to better support the museum's mission to preserve a way of life for rural farmers. Through the years three buildings were added to the museum including a schoolhouse, a permanent blacksmith shop, and a reproduction of a pack house. Today, educational programs and agri-tourism have expanded through the museum and many exciting new exhibits have opened.
Inside the Museum
The inside gallery is 6,000 square feet and contains many exhibits that highlight rural farm life in Eastern North Carolina from the 1880s to the 1930s. These exhibits include a history of tobacco farming which touches on the traditional ways of planting, harvesting, and auctioning tobacco. In addition to the history of tobacco farming, the museum also has an exhibit featuring the other crops grown in Eastern North Carolina such as cotton, soybeans, sweet potatoes, corn, and peanuts. The process of Tobacco farming is not the only aspect of rural life that the museum expands on. There are also exhibits on leisurely activities such as music, sports, hunting, and fishing that farm communities enjoyed during this time. There are also exhibits on activities done in the home such as household chores and cooking. Education and medicine are areas of rural life that the museum has exhibits on as well such as historic schools located in or around Kenly, NC; and a selection of historic medical equipment used by local physicians such as medicine bottles, a metal exam table, doctor's bags, and medical kits. The museum also has an exhibit on the traditional country store that could be found in most rural towns in the late 19th and early 20th century. These stores were where local farmers would come and visit with their neighbors and purchase goods.
The Tobacco Farm Life Museum offers guided tours for kids all the way up to senior groups. These tours include a detailed guide through the museum's gallery and outside buildings. Upon request, groups can tour a nearby tobacco farm as well. For kids groups in particular, the guided tours could also include educational and fun activities such as candle making, butter churning, artifact discovery, and heritage games: i.e. hopscotch, corn hole, marbles. Call the museum for any questions or to schedule your tour. School groups, tour buses, as well as individual families are welcome to come take a guided tour of the museum.
Every Saturday of the month, the Tobacco Farm Life Museum hosts events and demonstrations that highlight different trades, arts, and skills dealing with NC rural life. These are included with the regular admission fee. Events are done by demonstrators and volunteers who specialize in quilting, blacksmithing, raising animals, woodworking, and more. The demonstration depends on which category it falls under according to the Saturday Series schedule, which is as follows:
First Saturday- Fabric Arts
Second Saturday- Traditional Trades and Skills
Third Saturday- North Carolina Agribusiness
Fourth Saturday- Traditional Arts and Crafts
Fifth Saturday- Hands-On Activities