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Market Street Walking Tour, Wilmington North Carolina
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Cape Fear Museum was founded in 1898, which makes it North Carolina's oldest history museum. The Museum has changed dramatically since it's founding. Originally, their mission was to preserve Confederate objects and memories of the Civil War. However, after years of greater acquisitions and expanding collections, they broadened their mission to include all of the region's culture, science, and history. Their collection now includes fifty-two thousand pieces that showcase North Carolina's history.


  • Cape Fear Museum photographed in 2013
  • Cape Fear Museum's original location at the Wilmington Light Infantry Armory, c. 1905
The United Daughters of the Confederacy opened Cape Fear Museum in 1898. The Museum started out as a small, one room operation on the second floor of the Wilmington Light Infantry building in Wilmington, NC. Cape Fear Museum's history is one of tremendous growth. The location has changed four times in the previous century. It has called many places around the city of Wilmington home. In the 20's it expanded and moved into two rooms in the County courthouse annex. After a little over thirty years, the Museum found a home on the third floor of the Police Station, and it remained there until 1970. In the 70s the Museum expanded once again and moved to a building previously home to the National Guard Armory. Finally, after support from the public towards Museum improvements, the current location of Cape Fear Museum opened in 1992 newly renovated. 

Just as the location has varied over the course of the Museums history, so has its management. The United Daughter's of the Confederacy initially ran the museum, until they lost the Wilmington Light Infantry Building during World War I. After the loss of the building, the Museum was unable to keep the artifact collection they housed there; therefore, they had to send their collection of artifacts to Raleigh, NC. With the help of the New Hanover County Historical Commission and the United Daughter's of the Confederacy, the Museum was able to recollect all of the artifacts in the decade after following the war. Cape Fear Museum reopened under new management, a women's organization called North Carolina Sorosis, in the 30s. This organization ran the Museum until the 60s when the City of Wilmington and New Hanover County Historical Commission took control of operations, and they continue to run Cape Fear Museum today.  

The museum's growth continued with it's broadened mission. Once they had reopened after WWI, the administration decided to reach beyond the preservation of Confederate history. They expanded their collections to include art, history and science artifacts from all over the world. In the 70s, however, they decided to narrow their mission once again to focus on the regions art, history, and culture. Today, their mission reads:

"Cape Fear Museum collects, preserves and interprets objects relating to the history, science, and cultures of the Lower Cape Fear. The Museum makes those objects and their interpretation available to the public through educational exhibitions and programs."

Cape Fear Museum now features a variety of exhibits showcasing Cape Fear's local history and culture. They also offer programs for all ages that include: tours for families and schools, hands-on activities that demonstrate "how history and science go hand in hand," exploring new exhibitions with staff members, and many others. The museum is home to over 52,000 artifacts that allow for diverse exhibits and learning to go far beyond what the Museum was originally founded on. 
"CFM History." Cape Fear Museum. Accessed April 27, 2015. http://www.capefearmuseum.com/cfm-history.
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