The Frisco Native American Museum is a natural history center in Frisco, North Carolina, a small town on Hatteras Island. The museum is housed in a historic building from the 1880’s which once served as the town’s gathering place, post office and general store. The surrounding two acres of land offers nature trails and outdoor displays.
Exhibits at the museum include artifacts and items related to the area’s natural history, such as stones, taxidermied animals, and outdoor plant exhibits. An observation room at the Natural History Center overlooks the nature trails and a bird yard. Native American history is represented through a collection of artifacts and artwork. Items in the collection range from beadwork, quilts and other textiles including Native American clothing, leatherwork such as moccasins and saddles, tools, arrowheads, and pottery. Several tribes are represented, in addition to the history of tribes native to the Hatteras Island area.
Among the museum highlights is the most extensive photographic collection of the Chiricahua Apache. Over 900 photographs were donated in the 1980’s of the tribe, famous for its chief, Geronimo. The collection has been studied by scholars and writers from the Smithsonian and National Geographic, as many of the photographs are notated with names of individuals.
Nature trails surround the museum and allow guests to explore several acres of maritime forest. Trails are open year round and are marked with interpretative signage that educates visitors on the plants and animals they might see. Guests will cross two bridges over a small stream, and overlook a salt-marsh pond with an outlet to the sound. In 2010, a dance circle was built in the forest, which is used today for Native American powwows and performances. Under a pavilion in the forest, younger visitors have an opportunity to hunt for their own fossils at a large sand-filled table filled with fossilized shells, shark’s teeth and arrowheads.
Many of the Native American Museum’s programs and workshops take place at an outdoor Ancestral Village where guests can see a dugout canoe that was discovered on the property, as well as fishing weirs and a longhouse. Local tribespeople have said the site continues to carry the spirits of their ancestors.
History: The museum was founded in 1987 by local couple Carl and Joyce Bornfriend. The full time teachers shared a mutual love for historic preservation and education, and opened the museum one year after they were married. Two year later, the couple acquired the surrounding land for a nature trail and “retired” from teaching to operate the museum full time.
Almost all of the items in the collection are from Carl Bornfriend’s personal collection, which began when he was 7 years old. Although not Native American himself, Bornfriend was always intrigued by the Native cultures and felt driven to preserve their history as a temporary steward of the items in his collection.
Additions in the 1990’s followed a period of recovery from damages due to 1992’s Hurricane Emily. The new additions include a pavilion along the nature trail, and a two-story addition to the museum, which provided a research facility, more storage space, and a natural history exhibit area. More than 2,000 square feet of space was again added in 2005, providing for the gift shop relocation and the addition of a small bookstore. Renovations to the nature trail included the bird-overlook area and a dance circle.
The museum and natural history center have been designated as both a Historic Albemarle Tour site and one of over 200 North Carolina Environmental Education Centers, which are located throughout the state.
Ongoing Programs and Education: The Museum offers guided tours on several different topics for scouts, school groups, senior or community groups. While tours are not offered daily, staff are knowledgeable and able to answer questions and discuss the exhibits. The Museum also hosts educational events throughout the year. Annual Discovery Days take place each April as the first event of the year. Activities take place all day at the Ancestral Village outdoors, and in the Natural History Center. A new longhouse exhibit was dedicated at the 2018 event. The weekend event includes dancing, drum circles, Native American food, crafts, games and education.
Past and Future Exhibits: Past talks and programs at the Museum have included a summer long program with Dr. Tina Bradley, which educates guests on the history of the Cherokee language each Wednesday night. Visitors learn how to translate their own names into Cherokee, and learn about spelling and pronunciation.
53536 NC-12, Frisco, NC 27953, website, Phone: 252-995-4440
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