This exhibition examines the history of a trade port called River Bridge on the Pasquotank River north of Elizabeth City. In use for hundreds of years by Indigenous people, the name of the site, River Bridge, comes from a bridge built before the Revolutionary War that allowed for easier travel in the twisting backwaters of eastern North Carolina. The site also featured customshouses and warehouses, where workers loaded and unloaded cargo, people shopped for goods, and news circulated from both sides of the Atlantic. Today, the only reminders of this once-important center of commerce are a few support pilings and several vessels submerged just below the river’s surface, as well as a large collection of artifacts, many of which are spotlighted in this exhibition.
Visitors will explore the world of River Bridge through some of the objects that have been excavated from the riverbed. They will see objects that tell the story of the people, goods, and ideas that circulated around the waterways of eastern North Carolina and will gain insight into daily life, what people ate, how they decorated their homes, the trades they worked in, and how they navigated the world around them. They also will learn about the fascinating world of underwater archaeology and how nothing ever truly disappears—sometimes it just sinks.
River Bridge is a traveling exhibition that resulted from a collaboration between the Underwater Archaeology Branch of the NC Office of State Archaeology and the Museum of the Albemarle.
What Can Visitors See and Do?
- Awash in artifacts—Visitors will see a variety of objects—some of which have been buried underwater for over 400 years!
- Imagine global networks—Explore a map showing some of the objects found at River Bridge and how far they traveled to get there. Do you have any objects from far away?
- Touch table—Visitors can touch and learn about some of the many kinds of pottery found at the site, ranging from fine Chinese porcelain to rough clay vessels.
- Listen to the water’s song—Climb into a replica 400-year-old canoe to imagine what your life would be like if you relied on the water for travel, trade, and food.
- Step back in time—Visitors can immerse themselves in environmental vignettes that re-create a warehouse and showcase shingle production.