LUMBERTON — Robeson County residents who are interested in their history need only to visit the Robeson County History Museum for a journey back in time.
The museum is currently hosting “Journey Stories,” a six-week traveling Smithsonian exhibit that focuses on how the people came to America.
The exhibit opened Feb. 23 and is on display until April 6. It can be seen on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to noon and on Sundays from 2 to 4 p.m. at the museum at 101 S. Elm St. Special arrangements can be made for groups to visit at other times by calling Blake Tyner, the museum’s executive director, at 910-827-5504.
The Robeson County History Museum localized the exhibit by including historical artwork about the history of Robeson County and posting it along the walls of the museum. On one wall, Tyner has a three-dimensional original painting that depicts the journey of a slave and the Emancipation Proclamation. The artwork was painted by Melvin Morris, a freshman at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke.
The museum lends itself to the exhibit, said Ruth Ann McLellan, a volunteer with the Robeson County History Museum.
“This is the drawing card to get the people of Robeson County to look at our history,” she said.
Upon entering the exhibit, visitors follow red arrows that guide them through more than 100 descriptive panels about the history of American civilization. The arrows begin at panels that explain immigration and the “One Way Trip” people made to America. The panels then moves on to show how black people came from Africa in chains to be sold as slaves. Next, the panels exhibit how the westward expansion came about because of the increase in population on the East Coast. Then there is information on settlers building roads, bridges and ferry crossings on land already inhabited by American Indians. Eventually the panels show the expansion of railroads across the nation and the construction of new highways, automobiles, trucks and airplanes. The exhibit ends with modern-day civilization.
According to the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Services website, the Smithsonian exhibit specializes in creating three-dimensional, full-scale exhibition “packages” containing objects, photographic images and interpretive text.
Tyner is hoping that the exhibit will draw students from local schools.
Geneva Baker, a history teacher at Rowland Middle School, visited the exhibit on March 3 and plans to return.
“ … I will probably come back and bring some of my students,” Baker said.
The Smithsonian works with humanities councils in each state to select museums that will host the Smithsonian exhibit, Tyner said.
“I had to fill out a proposal on what events we would have in connection with the exhibit,” Tyner said. “I also got letters of support from the Lumberton Chamber of Commerce, Lumberton Visitors Bureau and the library.”
The directors of the museums submit packages to the humanities council in their state. Packages include the museum’s goals and how the museum will include local history with the Smithsonian exhibit. The North Carolina Humanities Council used the packages to decide which museums in N.C. were suitable.
Robeson County History Museum was among six museums in the state selected.
In conjunction with the exhibit, special events are planned for each Thursday that “Journey Stories” is on display locally.
On Thursday of last week, the film “Lasting Impressions,” a documentary on the Jewish experience in Robeson County, was shown at the Carolina Civic Center.
Others scheduled events are:
— A historical presentation called “Moving Past No” about the people of Robeson County being on the move will be presented 7 p.m. Thursday at the Osterneck Auditorium.
— A historical presentation called “From Fields to Glory” about Laurinburg-Maxton airbase will be shown on March 21 at 7 p.m. at the Osterneck Auditorium.
— A historical presentation called “The Personal Journey” will be show at 7 p.m. on March 28 at the Osterneck Auditorium.
— “The Gospel Truth,” a documentary about Yale professor Willie Ruff’s assertion that gospel music is actually rooted in the Gaelic music traditions of Scottish slave owners rather than African culture will showing 7 p.m. on April 4 at the Carolina Civic Center.