The exhibition explores the artistry and industry that is part of North Carolina’s story of how we “make ourselves at home” and invites visitors to interact with the furniture manufacturing process.
August 24, 2023 (Raleigh, N.C.)—For hundreds of years, North Carolinians have contributed to the state’s economy through furniture production. Families, communities and entire towns consider the furniture industry to be an integral part of who they are and where they come from. On Saturday, September 16, the North Carolina Museum of History will unveil its newest exhibition, Furniture: Crafting a North Carolina Legacy, which explores, honors and illustrates the ways the furniture industry is woven into North Carolina’s story.
For North Carolinians, furniture has always been a part of how we “make ourselves at home” whether it’s just filling our living rooms or earning a living. Crafting furniture in the state evolved from small backyard shops to modern mechanized factories, creating a major economic impact on North Carolina’s economy and propelling our state to become an international leader in home furnishings.
“Although furniture plays a major role in our lives, it’s an integral part of how we gather, connect and express ourselves, most of us spend very little time thinking about our furniture,” said Michael Ausbon, curator of decorative arts. “This exhibit tells the very human story of furniture manufacturing in North Carolina. We are very excited to welcome you into that story.”
Each of the pieces in this exhibition is the product of a unique history, a part of the story of furniture manufacturing in North Carolina. Visitors will be able to follow the evolution of style from colonial to modern, see how the design of the pieces changed and explore the artistry of its creation through details and symbols.
Featuring furniture from:
- Thomas Day, a freeborn African American master craftsman and entrepreneur, who operated the most successful cabinetmaking workshop in North Carolina from 1840 to 1858. His incredible success and business acumen have earned him recognition as “The Father of North Carolina’s Furniture Industry.”
- Biltmore Estate Industries, the longest-running craft industry in America, and Nancy Rebecca Clement—one of the first female carvers at Biltmore Estate Industries. See her hand-carved dogwood motif chest that she created for her sister Lillian, who was our state’s and the South’s first female legislator.
- Craftique Furniture, considered the finest maker of solid mahogany furniture in our state. Each piece was crafted only for a specific order, a specific customer, or a specific retailer.
- Thai designer Nuttapong Charoenkitivarakorn, who designed the iconic “seat belt chair” out of scraps in 2005 for the Phillips Collection, High Point. The Hunger Games movie—filmed in western North Carolina—featured a seatbelt chair.
The exhibit invites visitors to interact with the furniture manufacturing process, feel the difference between handmade and machine-made processes, try their hand at “loading furniture” and “punch out” at the end of the exhibit.
As you leave the exhibit, you will be able to marvel at the furniture around you and in your home with a newfound appreciation.
For more information and to plan your trip, visit ncmuseumofhistory.org.
About the NC Museum of History
The North Carolina Museum of History, a Smithsonian Affiliate, fosters a passion for North Carolina history. This museum collects and preserves artifacts of state history and educates the public on the history of the state and the nation through exhibits and educational programs. Admission is free. In 2022, more than 274,000 people visited the museum to see some of the 150,000 artifacts in the museum collection. The Museum of History, within the Division of State History Museums, is part of the NC Department of Natural and Cultural Resources.
About the Smithsonian Affiliations Network
Since 2006, the North Carolina Museum of History has been a Smithsonian Affiliate, part of a select group of museums and cultural, educational and arts organizations that share Smithsonian resources with the nation. The Smithsonian Affiliations network is a national outreach program that develops long-term collaborative partnerships with museums and other educational and cultural organizations to enrich communities with Smithsonian resources. More information is available at affiliations.si.edu.
About the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources
The N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources (DNCR) manages, promotes, and enhances the things that people love about North Carolina – its diverse arts and culture, rich history, and spectacular natural areas. Through its programs, the department enhances education, stimulates economic development, improves public health, expands accessibility, and strengthens community resiliency.
The department manages over 100 locations across the state, including 27 historic sites, seven history museums, two art museums, five science museums, four aquariums, 35 state parks, four recreation areas, dozens of state trails and natural areas, the N.C. Zoo, the N.C. Symphony, the State Library, the State Archives, the N.C. Arts Council, the African American Heritage Commission, the American Indian Heritage Commission, the State Historic Preservation Office, the Office of State Archaeology, the Highway Historical Markers program, the N.C. Land and Water Fund, and the Natural Heritage Program. For more information, please visit www.ncdcr.gov.