UNCG Aycock exhibit

UNCG employee Martin Kane walks past the Charles B. Aycock exhibit at UNCG Auditorium in Greensboro, N.C. in 2018.

UNCG will pick up two national awards later this month for its exhibit on late North Carolina Gov. Charles Aycock.

The university's Museum Studies program has won an Award of Excellence prize and a History in Progress Award from the American Association for State and Local History, a membership organization of people who work with — just as the name says — state and local history.

The Award of Excellence recognizes top-notch historical projects, such as exhibits and educational programs. The History in Progress award is (and I'm quoting from the association's website) "a special additional award for an Award of Excellence winner whose nomination is highly inspirational, exhibits exceptional scholarship, and/or is exceedingly entrepreneurial in terms of funding, partnerships, or collaborations, creative problem solving or unusual project design and inclusiveness."

UNCG says it's the only North Carolina institution to win either award in 2019. The History in Progress award is an even bigger deal; the association is handing out just three of them this year.

The university opened its Aycock exhibit last year inside UNCG Auditorium, formerly named for Aycock. University trustees ordered the creation of the exhibit as part of its 2016 decision to change its name. I wrote about the name change here and the exhibit here.

“Etched in Stone? Governor Charles Aycock and the Power of Commemoration” is a fascinating look at the life and times of Aycock, who served as governor from 1901 to 1905. On one hand, he was a big proponent of education for both white and black children in the early years of the 20th century. (Though Aycock was praised for years as the Education Governor, I need to note as others have that education funding for white and black schools was neither equal nor equitable.) On the other, Aycock was a leader in the Democratic Party's white supremacy movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He helped usher in Jim Crow laws that stripped black residents of their right to vote and segregated much of society.

The exhibit is up on the mezzanine level of UNCG Auditorium. It's free, but it's open only when the building is holding public events, some of which require tickets. You'd need about an hour or less depending on how fast you read to take in every panel. 

UNCG reps will pick up the two awards Aug. 30 at the association's annual meeting in Philadelphia, a city that, according to rumor, is home to quite a bit of history. Several former graduate students involved in the project as well as former public history director Benjamin Filene will accept the awards for UNCG. Filene is now the chief curator at the N.C. Museum of History in Raleigh. At UNCG, he oversaw the Museum Studies program, a master's program within the history department.

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