Published: Jul 14, 2012 07:00 PM
Modified: Jul 10, 2012 06:13 PM
HILLSBOROUGH - In the basement of the Orange County Historical Museum, intern Amanda Cacich is bent over an early 1900s white cotton wedding dress that once belonged to the granddaughter of William Graham, the 30th governor of North Carolina.
Cacich is surrounded by shelves full of boxes with garments and documents that can be traced even further back to the colonial period.
Other artifacts – rusty metal blades and faded china sets – pack tabletops filled with objects donated by Orange County and Hillsborough natives who want to share their local relics.
This summer interns like Cacich are working with staff and volunteers to inventory the museum’s 3,000 piece collection, a process that takes place every four years. They remove artifacts from storage so the museum can record each item is and where it is being stored.
Though the process can be tedious, Cacich said it has been exciting to handle rare pieces of Orange County’s past.
“You never know what you’re going to find in the boxes,” said Cacich, a senior at The College of William and Mary.
The museum, founded in 1957 by the Hillsborough Garden Club, is run by three part-time staff members, volunteers, and interns. In 2007, the Orange County Museum merged with the Hillsborough Historical Society to form the Historical Foundation of Hillsborough and Orange County, which operates the museum.
Brandie Fields, the museum’s executive director, said the merger occurred because both organizations have the same mission.
“Hillsborough Historical Society realized they were doing the same thing as us,” she said.
The collection is housed in the two-story Confederate Memorial Building, which served as the town library when it was built in 1934. Before moving there in 1983, the museum was contained in the second-floor courtroom of the 1845 courthouse.
Fields, who has been director since September 2011, said the inventory process can be difficult at times because the museum doesn’t have clear standards for recordkeeping.
“Each director had a new system that they wanted to bring in, and you can see that in the records,” she said.
Inventory checks also let her know how many artifacts are “found in collection,” a term used to describe objects whose donors are unknown.
Fields said between 10 and 15 percent of her inventory is found in collection but the museum has ownership rights to the rest of its collection.
Items actually on display span a wide range of eras: Native American life, the colonial period and the Revolutionary War. The museum also has period displays from the Civil War and Reconstruction era, including mill life in Orange County. There is also a special exhibit called “Sense of Place” that features historic architecture in Hillsborough.
Staff member Daniel Bullock said the museum tries to rotate the exhibits at least two or three times every year.
Making the exhibits is one of his favorite jobs at the museum, he said, even though it requires a great deal of research.
“It’s like being in school, and not having to write the final paper.”