Plan A Visit

**With the health and safety of our community, volunteers and staff in mind the Mount Airy Museum of Regional History will be closing to the public at 5:00PM, Tuesday March 17 and will remain closed until further notice.  During this time the museum’s staff will be on site working during regular operating hours and can be reached by phone or email. As we work our way through this situation we’ll be launching some new web-based programming and activities so please follow our social media feeds for more information on those offerings as they develop. Our apologies for any inconvenience and thanks for your understanding and support.**

All of the information you, or your group will need to plan a visit to the museum, including our schedule, hours, rates & more!

If you are planning a visit for a school group, please see our "For Educators" section.

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Changing Exhibits

Coming Soon-  Spirited: Prohibition in America

Upcoming Events

Sat Jul 11 @ 8:00pm - 09:30pm
Historic Downtown Mount Airy Ghost Tours
Mon Jul 13 @ 9:00am - 01:00pm
Animal Discovery Camp
Mon Jul 27 @ 1:00pm - 05:00pm
Detective Camp!

Who We Are


Mount Airy Museum of Regional History

IMG_8201_-_Copy_606x640 Ours is an all American story - typical of how communities grew up all across our great nation. While our story takes place in the back country of northwestern North Carolina at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains, it is likely to bear many similarities to the development of crossroads, towns, and cities throughout America.

It had taken little more than 100 years for the corridors along the coastline of this still-new continent to overflow. As tensions grew and conflicts flared, the pioneer spirit set in. Families literally packed up everything they owned and headed into the unknown-searching for the "promised land."

Mission Statement:

The Purpose of the Mount Airy Museum of Regional History is to  Collect, Preserve and Interpret the Natural, Historic, and Artistic Heritage of the Region

                                                                      Adopted by the Board of Directors   October 9, 1995

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Mount Airy Museum Of Regional History

King’s dream celebrated at museum event

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Attendance-wise, it bodes well for an event when extra chairs must be found to accommodate the audience and all the programs are distributed — both happened here Saturday night when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was honored.  King’s birthday won’t be celebrated officially across the nation until Monday, but a crowd estimated at more than 125 people got an early start by cramming onto the third floor of Mount Airy Museum of Regional History for “In the Spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King: Surry Countians Continue the Dream.”  

The more than two-hour event of words, music and remembrance, which was marking its 10th year, celebrated not only King’s life and work but the continuation of his dream among those who are alive today. Though King was an internationally known civil rights hero, the message was that everyone can perpetuate his dream.  “We recognize that each of you in this room is that quiet hero,” said one speaker, Cheryl Yellow Fawn Scott, a co-director of the program along with LaDonna McCarther. “We recognize that each one of you carries that dream.”

The prevailing theme of the event with a multi-racial flavor was that people of all colors must be unified in love and never forget what King stood for, while making sure his work continues. “If anybody says ‘I love God’ but hates his brother, he is a liar,” said Robert Giesbers, pastor of North Main Church of Christ, citing scripture.  Later on, during a prayer, Giesbers said of King: “His dreams were your dreams. We thank you (God) so much for a man willing to take a stand with his life.”  King’s role in organizing the mass March on Washington, which reached its 50th anniversary in 2013, was recalled Saturday night for the role that event played in sparking landmark civil-rights legislation by Congress in 1964.  “They arrived by bus, they arrived by train and they arrived by car,” said Emma Jean Tucker, one of several speakers who presented readings at the museum program, said of those flocking to the capital in 1963. “One young man roller-skated from Chicago,” she read.  And while many gains in equality have occurred since that historic march, the overflow audience Saturday night was reminded that now is not the time to rest.

One way this was highlighted was through a creative interpretation by Marie Nicholson entitled “Still I Rise.” It focused on the fact that today’s people of color represent the dreams of slaves from previous generations.  “If you look around, we still have to keep marching — we still have to keep rising,” Nicholson said during her presentation that had the audience riveted. "Or something may repeat itself."  The message also was spread Saturday night through spirited performances by choirs of local churches, including Chestnut Ridge Progressive Primitive Baptist, Triumphant Pentecostal Holiness and Exodus Progressive Primitive Baptist. Elizabeth Martin also sang.  Saturday night's event additionally featured a creative dance by a local youth, Dalila Nicholson called "The Dream." There were also recognitions of local citizens who've helped keep it alive over the years and the lighting of candles of remembrance and to honor different races and religions.

The contributions of the historically black J.J. Jones School were mentioned as well, which is being celebrated with a museum exhibit. 

Awards Presented

Another highlight Saturday was the announcement of this year's recipients of the Spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King Award. Since first being presented in 2005, it honors those who have made a contribution to the community using the same attributes King referred to in his "I Have a Dream" speech.  This year that honor went to two people, Surry NAACP President Faye Carter and Alfrida Gaines.  In her role with the NAACP, Carter has worked to help end racial discrimination and hatred in the area and also is active with her church.  "She continues to remind us that there is strength in numbers and we are all brothers," Scott said in bestowing the award.  Gaines, meanwhile, is the owner of a local transportation business who is known for providing rides to those in need and also is heavily involved with church activities and assists youths. She does so in an unassuming, low-key manner, Scott said of Gaines.“She readily assists where needed, even though all are not aware of what she does.”

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. program at museum set for Saturday

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Civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King had a dream to end segregation and join people from all races, backgrounds, and ethnic groups together, and that dream will be celebrated locally with the annual program “In the Spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King: Surry Countians Continue the Dream,” set for Jan. 18 at the Mount Airy Museum of Regional History.

The program will focus on the “sacrifices, love, learning, service, perseverance, and hope of the African-American community of Surry County.” This event is free and the public is encouraged to attend, according to co-directors Cheryl Yellow Fawn Scott and LaDonna McCarther. Light refreshments will follow the program.

Scott said the program includes an honor for a local person who has made a contribution to the community using the same attributes King talked about in his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. “It is for someone who has exemplified the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King,” she added. “We look at how each individual contributes to perseverance, faith, courage, and for all people. We all aspire to be more cohesive and connected — this is the dream. We see more similarities now than differences in our skin color, ethnicity, etc.”

Now in its tenth year, McCarther said the museum will have something special for the honoree. In addition, Scott added that they will honor those who have received the recognition in years past.

Matthew Edwards, director of the Mount Airy Museum of of Regional History, said the Dr. Martin Luther King celebration has become a staple event, and is a chance to “celebrate his life, but also to celebrate members of the local African-American community.

Edwards added that the event is entirely volunteer-generated, with the museum providing the venue.

“In the Spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King” will include a presentation of the flag by the city of Mount Airy Honor Guard. The National Anthem will be performed by Tony Searcy.

The reception will also include Minister Joshua Wilkerson from Exodus Primitive Progressive Baptist Church, who will present pre-program music with his choir, as well as a solo.

Triumphant Penecostal Church Choir with Bishop Tony Carter, Chestnut Ridge Primitive Progressive Baptist Church’s male chorus, and St. Paul AME Church Choir will perform. Elizabeth Martin will present a solo and Marie Nicholson will continue her tradition of presenting a reading of “Still I Rise.” Nicholson’s daughter Delila Nicholson will perform a creative dance entitled “The Dream.”

There will also be a special portion of the program to honor JJ Jones High School and the students and teachers who were there. “Those who were there received a wonderful foundation, one that enabled them to go all over the country if they left and went to school somewhere else. The students who were there were able to be successful in any number of fields because of the foundation and dedication of the teachers,” McArther said.

The end of the program is inclusive, she added, with a section to “celebrate the diversity of the people who participate and attend,” with the words of Dr. Martin Luther King read aloud, as candles are lit to represent different religions, races, and ethnic groups working together for peace and love.

Past honorees included:

- Martha Joyce, 2005

- Shelby Jean King, 2006

- Edward McDaniel, 2007

- Melva Houston Tucker, 2008

- Perry Marc, 2009

- Geneva Gee, 2010

- Emma Jean Tucker, 2011

- James A. McCarther, Sr., 2011

- John Jessup, 2012

- Lucy Nora Taylor, 2013

The Dr. Martin Luther King event at the museum began in the fall of 2004, with the first program held Feb. 19, 2005. “We wanted to honor those who may have started out in the darkness and made it up through the light…wanted to honor someone from the area who is doing good.”

McArthur said. She added that they wanted to thank the staff of the museum, including Edwards, Guest Service Manager Nancy Davis, and Curator Amy Snyder, for their support and dedication, as well as videographer John Robert Smith, who Scott said had been “so gracious” to record the event each year.

“This has always been so uplifting,” Scott remembered. “We really enjoy the time we spend together, with music and with the words of Dr. Martin Luther King. All that loving energy in the room is wonderful. We have been blessed every year and this year will continue that tradition.”

For more information about the “In the Spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King” event that will take place on Jan. 18 at 7 p.m., call the Mount Airy Museum of regional history at 786-4788.

Museum issues call for volunteers; Docent tour guides and front desk help needed

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The Mount Airy Museum of Regional History has issued a call for volunteers — especially those interested in the culture, history, and traditions of this region — to serve as museum docents, as well as volunteers for the front desk.  A docent training class begins on Jan. 14 and will run for six consecutive weeks, until Feb. 18, from 4 to 5 p.m. each Tuesday.  According to Mount Airy Museum of Regional History Executive Director Matthew Edwards, a docent is “a name that basically means tour guide.”  Edwards said volunteer docents fulfill a “vital role” in bringing history alive for those who visit the museum, especially groups of children who often tour the museum with their classes, as well as groups of adults and senior citizens. Docents may also research information for training and workshops, assist with programs and workshops, assist with craft projects, help with summer programs, or may chose to specialize in one particular part of the museum or specialty.  The museum has a group of about 16 docent volunteers, according to Guest Services Manager Nancy Davis, who added that it is a lower number than usual. “We really want people-people; volunteers who just really love interacting with all kinds of people, especially children and senior citizens.”  “We want people who are interested in and passionate about local history, and also people who love to interact with other people. These folks are so important to us — they help us personally interpret the history of our community with our visitors,” Edwards described.

During the docent training classes, Edwards said the volunteers will learn about every aspect of the museum, receiving both the public museum tour but also a behind-the-scenes tour. Volunteer docents will learn about the “stories we tell and how they relate to our collections,” Edwards said. The training is designed so that by the end, docents will shadow an existing docent before they give their own tours, and each person may add their own personal touch.  “We don’t use a set script, but we do provide a general outline. The great thing about being our tour guide in a space like the museum is the many stories we have. There is something for everyone to focus in on. If you have a particular interest in a certain subject, we welcome that specialty. We have go-to people we use for certain programs and areas of the museum,” Edwards remarked.  Each volunteer will receive a docent training book full of information about the museum and the region. 

Museum docents and volunteers are a “key to the museum’s future growth,” Edwards said, adding that the volunteer opportunity is open to adults of all ages, and those who are interested are not required to have a background in history or museum work. “We welcome those with all types of backgrounds and interest levels.”  Retired teachers make “wonderful docents” Davis remarked. “I love to have teachers, because they really do well with the kids and know how to keep them entertained and interested in the museum.”  Edwards and Davis added that the museum is also in need of front desk volunteers who are willing to commit to work 3.5 hour shifts as their schedule allows. 

All museum volunteers, including docents and front desk volunteers, have a variety of commitment levels, according to each person’s individual schedule. Some volunteers are more of an “on call volunteer” according to Davis, while others work on a regular schedule. Some docents are those who can be called upon if the museum needs their particular talents or knowledge base. Docents may volunteer anywhere from 30 hours per year to 100 or more hours per year.  Docent volunteer training classes will be held every Tuesday afternoon beginning on Jan. 14 and lasting until Feb. 18, from 4 to 5 p.m.  If interested in becoming a docent and/or a museum volunteer for another area such as front desk, or have any questions about volunteering, please call Nancy Davis at 336-786-4478, ext. 229 or email

Tis the Season

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Mount Airy Museum of Regional History Executive Director Matt Edwards expects this one to be one for the record books.  Plans are well under way for an event that has become a community favorite over the years: The annual Holiday Open House Program.  This year’s open house is set for Dec. 7 from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m.  During the event, community members are welcome to come into the museum free of charge, enjoy its annual holiday decor and take in live music.  For a second year, there may even be an appearance by Saint Nick.Edwards said the event is one of his favorites.  “We consider this to be our Christmas gift to the community,” he said. “It’s one of the few times each year that we waive admission and scheduled programming, open the doors and make it completely free to the community.” 

During the event there will be something for everyone.  “We have a whole palette of music throughout the day starting at 11 a.m., and continuing throughout the open house,” he said.  This year’s lineup includes Backstep, featuring award-winning local musician Chester McMilliann, and Grammy-nominated Celtic musician Alicia Merritt, who is returning for a second year.  “We’re going to have music every hour on the hour,” Edwards said. “And we will be offering light refreshments for our guests, and the museum will be fully decorated for the holidays.”  During last year’s open house, Edwards said hundreds turned out.  “We easily expect between 300 and 500 people, but think it could go as high as 1,000 this year,” he said.

For a second year, the museum is working with the Mount Airy Professionals of Surry (MAPS) to bring what is sure to be a crowd favorite, Cookies with Santa. The event will be held in the Children’s Gallery on the third floor, and Edwards said that last year dozens of children turned out to sit on Santa’s lap.  “Last year we did it for the first time and the turnout was great,” he said. “The MAPS group was very happy with the turnout, and said it was much larger than they’d anticipated. This year we’re hoping it gets even bigger.”  Will Jackson, incoming president of the professional group, said the event is a chance to get out and fellowship with the community.  “We love doing it,” he said. “It’s a great family event and we really enjoy seeing the kids’ faces light up when they see Santa.”

Edwards urges anyone who hasn’t been to the museum to come out and enjoy one of the unofficial starts to the holiday season in the community.  “If you’ve been putting off coming out and seeing what we have going on, this is the perfect time to do so,”he said. “It’s a great way to reconnect with the museum and maybe even do a little Christmas shopping in our gift shop. We have a great selection of products year-round, but we ensure we have a full inventory in advance of the holiday season.”

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