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The types of museum objects preserved and documented by the North Carolina Collection Gallery are quite diverse, with only about ten percent of the collection on display at any given time. Artifacts not on exhibit are maintained in collection areas for study, conservation, and in rotations for changing exhibitions. Oil portraits, ship models, old scientific equipment, personal effects of the "original" Siamese twins Eng and Chang, World War I military gear, and even a plaster death mask of Napoleon Bonaparte (one owned originally by the French emperor's personal physician) can be found here. Although the Gallery collects and preserves an array of artifacts, its current acquisition policy has four concentrations: university history, political memorabilia, natural history, and currency or "numismatics."


The Gallery oversees an extensive collection of coins and tokens, paper currencies, bonds, stocks, chits, and other money-related material. As a result, in recent years the Gallery has become this region's principal contact for public questions about old currencies. A numismatic endowment has been established in the North Carolina Collection. These funds are used exclusively to acquire, preserve, and exhibit numismatic specimens and to assist the department in its efforts to build the finest state currency collection in the nation.

Featured web content related to the Gallery's numismatic holdings includes selected images of some of the notes and coins in the Gallery's collections; an online exhibit of historic moneys in the North Carolina Collection from the Colonial era to the Civil War; an article about the Carolina Elephant token, a rare 17th-century coin; and "Civil War America and the Man in the Street," an article by Smithsonian numismatics expert Richard Doty about the effects of the Civil War on American currency in the North and the South.

classical style statue of small boy University History

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is the oldest operating state university in the nation, opening to students in January, 1795. In helping today to preserve UNC's long history, the Gallery serves as the central repository for artifacts relating to the school's history. The Gallery now cares for more than 3,000 UNC-related artifacts. People who have such objects and would like to donate them to the school are encouraged to contact the Gallery's staff.

election campaign button Political Memorabilia

The Gallery seeks to enhance the department's collection of campaign buttons, pins, bumper stickers, and other memorabilia relating to North Carolina's political history. These objects are documented and used in exhibitions to complement displays of books, articles, newspapers, brochures, posters, and other imprints that record of the debates, victories, and losses of various candidates in past generations. The online exhibit "Campaigns and Causes: Political Memorabilia in North Carolina" features a selection of the Gallery's political memorabilia holdings.


bird Natural History

The Gallery also exhibits and seeks to acquire rare engravings,
watercolors, commemorative stamps, collectors' cards, and other items that illustrate North Carolina's rich natural history and the diversity of the state's resources. The Gallery displays as well selections of other related material in the department's holdings, which include, for examples, original eighteenth-century prints by British naturalist Mark Catesby, seventy-six original folios from John James Audubon's masterwork The Birds of America, and thirteen prints from Aububon's The Viviporous Quadrupeds of North America. While the Gallery itself does not actively collect animal specimens, it does preserve for the University a zoological collection that was used in past generations by faculty and students for teaching and study. Some of the specimens in this historic collection date from the late 1800s and early 1900s and were obtained from sites in and around Chapel Hill.