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.
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.
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.
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.