Last updated: 1/6/2012
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Street Address
201 South Road
Chapel Hill, NC 27599
Mailing Address
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
CB 3930, Wilson Library
Chapel Hill, NC 27514
Monday - Friday9 AM - 5 PM
Saturday9 AM - 1 PM
Sunday1 PM - 5 PM
Closed on state holidays.
Group Tours
Linda Jacobson, Keeper
phone: 919-962-0104

A public service of the North Carolina Collection, the Gallery is located on the second floor of the Louis Round Wilson Library at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The Gallery, which opened in December, 1989, is part of a long history at UNC of utilizing museum objects as educational tools. Over two centuries ago, in 1795, the university's board of trustees appointed the school's first "keeper of the museum," Charles Wilson Harris. Harris was a native of Cabarrus County, N.C., and recent graduate of the College of New Jersey (now Princeton). As keeper, he began to assemble at UNC a collection of artifacts and natural-history specimens, displaying them in his "cabinet of curios" for students and visitors to the small, new campus.

Today, the Gallery serves as a descendant to Charles Harris's early museum and library work by presenting a variety of exhibitions that feature literature, photographs, and artifacts from the North Carolina Collection's extensive holdings. The Gallery itself is responsible for overseeing more than 22,000 museum objects for the department, including the furnishings in 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 Rooms. 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).

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 North Carolina's early nineteenth-century gold rush includes a rare 24-coin set of Bechtler coins. Still 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 Eng and Chang 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 exhibitions are free and open to the general public. Visitors may either browse on their own or arrange for guided tours with staff. Teachers who are interested in providing their classes with multi-disciplined field trips should consider UNC-Chapel Hill's campus. Situated within a short walking distance of one another are the Ackland Art Museum, Morehead Planetarium, and the North Carolina Collection Gallery. Thus, a "research triangle" of art, science, and social-history experiences and tours can be arranged between these three institutions. It should be noted, too, that the Gallery's facilities are also available to the university community as a meeting area for smaller seminars, classes, and other special programs.

Artifact Collections

The types of museum objects preserved and documented by the North Carolina Collection Gallery are quite diverse, with only about ten percent of the collection on display at any given time. Artifacts not on exhibit are maintained in collection areas for study, conservation, and in rotations for changing exhibitions. Oil portraits, ship models, old scientific equipment, personal effects of the "original" Siamese twins Eng and Chang, World War I military gear, and even a plaster death mask of Napoleon Bonaparte (one owned originally by the French emperor's personal physician) can be found here. Although the Gallery collects and preserves an array of artifacts, its current acquisition policy has four concentrations: university history, political memorabilia, natural history, and currency or "numismatics."

  • Numismatics: The Gallery oversees an extensive collection of coins and tokens, paper currencies, bonds, stocks, chits, and other money-related material. As a result, in recent years the Gallery has become this region's principal contact for public question
  • University History: The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is the oldest operating state university in the nation, opening to students in January, 1795. In helping today to preserve UNC's long history, the Gallery serves as the central repository
  • Political Memorabilia: The Gallery seeks to enhance the department's collection of campaign buttons, pins, bumper stickers, and other memorabilia relating to North Carolina's political history. These objects are documented and used in exhibitions to comple
  • Natural History: The Gallery also exhibits and seeks to acquire rare engravings, watercolors, commemorative stamps, collectors' cards, and other items that illustrate North Carolina's rich natural history and the diversity of the state's resources.
  • Library

    Access: General Public, Students, Scholars

    Appointment required: No


    Windows Magazine: News from the UNC Friends of the Library Twice a year the Friends of the Library publishes Windows. If you are looking for a particular issue or feature story, please contact Sarah Poteete at (919) 843-5660 or email her at

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