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Grantee Spotlight: A Q+A with the City of Raleigh Museum

Grantee Spotlight: A Q+A with the City of Raleigh Museum


“Lifelong learner” is a term typically used to describe an adult who is self-motivated to voluntarily pursue new skills, experiences, and knowledge past their formal education years. In some way we are all lifelong learners. For example, if you took up a new hobby during the pandemic or enjoy visiting a new city. That makes all of us the perfect audience for a new program series from the City of Raleigh Museum.


In 2022 the City of Raleigh Museum received a Community Engagement Grant from North Carolina Humanities to help support their 10-part North Carolina history program series, Timely Connections, and other symposiums at the museum. The Timely Connections program series is free and open to the public and will run every other Thursday night from January 26 – June 1, 2023. You can see the full program lineup and register to attend by visiting their Eventbrite page.


We connected with Megan Raby, Assistant Director of Museums for the City of Raleigh, and Neil Phipps, Museum Educator at the City of Raleigh Museum and Pope House, to learn more about why being a lifelong learner and staying connected to your community is important.


Tell us about the City of Raleigh Museum!

Megan: The City of Raleigh Museum (COR Museum) looks at Raleigh’s past and how it informs our present, and then we try to envision how that’s going to shape our future. We are a free museum and try to make sure that we are inviting everyone in the city, both residents and visitors, to come and learn about the city any way they possibly can. We do a lot of fun things throughout the year like our annual Raleigh Roast coffee and tea sampling program in March and our Dark Raleigh tours in October, which is a true crime tour. This year we are celebrating our 30th anniversary! We are going to do some celebration events in the fall, so stay tuned!


What can people expect to experience when they attend a Timely Connections program?

Neil: The name Timely Connections feeds into our mission of tying together Raleigh’s past, present, and future. Timely Connections is a monthly lecture series. The lectures are meant to appeal to lifelong learners, and the topics are very diverse to pique different interests. Everyone is welcome. With Timely Connections, we’re also trying to host consistent weekly programming so people can say, “Oh, it’s Thursday! We don’t have plans. Let’s go down to the museum. I’m sure they’ve got something going on!”


Our first lecture on January 26 is with Dr. Wayne Williams. He’s going to present about Horace Kephart who is a pioneer in the American Camping Movement. Williams will talk about Mr. Kephart’s life and how camping moved from a survival mechanism to a recreational mechanism in the American consciousness. After that, we have Dr. Valerie Johnson of Shaw University speaking on February 9. She’s going to talk about historic preservation and the spaces here in Raleigh specifically. I’m also looking forward to hearing from Dan Fountain on March 23, who is a professor at Meredith College. He’s going to talk about the role of white supremacy in the disenfranchisement of African Americans in 1898 and Meredith College’s role in that specifically.


What other programs are associated with Timely Connections?

Megan: North Carolina Humanities is supporting our Timely Connections series as well as our sixth annual African American History Symposium and a new symposium on Labor during the Civil War. Our African American History Symposium annually focuses on different topics. This year we are focusing on genealogical work. Our goal is to bring genealogical groups and community members together to begin to trace their lineages. It’s a unique issue to the African American community; their genealogical records are largely lost prior to 1865. Our Civil War Symposium is happening May 6 and will include a presentation by Jason Bowen about the Lumbee conscription at Fort Fisher during the Civil War.


What role do you think museums have in our society?

Megan: I think the best museums have an open-door policy. They are places that everybody can come, feel safe, and learn. Some might say museums are neutral spaces, which is partially true, but I think they can also provide us with an opportunity to confront our biases. A good museum offers a safe way to confront the things that you struggle with as a member of our society and helps you learn the “why” behind that. I also think museums are great intergenerational learning spaces. We see a lot of grandparents bringing grandchildren in. They will point to an object and say things like, “Oh, I used to use that on the farm,” and so forth. It’s great to see kids learning from their grandparents or parents in this way.


Neil: I come from an environmental education background, so my perspective is that museums are an important part of a larger experiential education. We just had 140 school-age kids come into the museum. One said, “This is the best field trip we’ve ever had. I’m going to remember this.” And it’s true. When I talked to them about some of the stuff they had done earlier in the day, their eyes still lit up. Another said, “I came with my mom last year, and I remember this.” That sort of persistent education outside the classroom is what I really appreciate about museums. That’s part of what Timely Connections is trying to do too, engage with those lifelong learners.


What was your experience working with North Carolina Humanities?

Megan: I love working with NC Humanities because of their willingness to allow us to try new things. A lot of times in the museum world, we have to experiment to see what works best for our visitors. What is popular now maybe wasn’t popular a year ago, so being able to try things out is exciting. I also appreciate how responsive NC Humanities is. We’ve been able to get a lot of feedback and good information from staff.


How can people support COR Museum:

Megan: We invite you to become a member today! One hundred percent of your membership goes towards museum programs and exhibitions. Members receive exclusive access to programs and other special incentives. For more information please visit:



About North Carolina Humanities’ Grantee Spotlights: NC Humanities’ Grantee Spotlights shine a light on the incredible work of our grantee partners, offering details about their funded project, and feature a Q&A with a team member associated with the organization.


This interview has been edited for length and clarity.


Photos courtesy of COR Museum.