Starring North Carolina!, an 8,400-square-foot exhibit featuring more than 600 artifacts, ran at the North Carolina Museum of History from November 15, 2014, to September 7, 2015. Its tagline, “100 Years, 3,000 Films,” summed up the exhibit’s goals—to have visitors grasp the sheer amount of filmmaking undertaken in North Carolina and to learn about the role of the film industry in the state’s history. To that end, NCMH utilized artifacts, photographs, labels, posters, hands-on interactives, and video clips to highlight as many titles as possible. Presenting information through multiple formats allowed them to meet various visitor learning styles and create a fun, engaging exhibit.
NCMH began the planning process with just two artifacts directly related to North Carolina movies in their own collection, and had to make a concerted effort to identify and secure loans from across the state and nation. Staff reached out to institutions with relevant collections and made contacts in the local film community, eventually procuring more than 550 loans from both individuals and institutions. The loan process became an important part of community engagement, helping to create relationships with diverse populations and those who had never visited the museum.
Unlike the rest of the museum, which is free, this exhibit required a separate admission fee. Starring North Carolina! was an important milestone—NCMH’s first fee-based exhibit developed entirely in-house by their own staff. Informal evaluation, social media, and onsite surveys indicate that the exhibit was successful in reaching a broader audience including first time museum visitors and film fans. Written evaluations for the inaugural Longleaf Film Festival, held in conjunction with the exhibit, emphasized a belief that film is an important part of our state’s history and applauded the initiation of a film festival in the state capital.