One of my favorite museums was founded by a Boy Scout. Bud Schiele was born in 1893 and he spent his life in the study of nature. Throughout his lifetime he collected rocks, minerals and even wildlife and took thousands of photographs. In North Carolina, he settled in Gaston County, where he led the Piedmont Scout Council until his retirement because of a mandatory age limit. He wasn’t ready to retire so he applied to be a Park Ranger in the Great Smokey Mountain National Park. But before he left Gastonia, he made a proposal to some influential city leaders. “If you can persuade the county to build a place to house it, I will offer my entire collection of animals and minerals and give my services for free.”
And so The Schiele Museum of Natural History was born. The museum focuses on nature in the North Carolina region and building appreciation for the areas right in our own back yards. There are many educational programs and exhibits which change on a regular basis.
There are wonderful displays of Mr. Schiele’s collections. He amassed one of the largest collections of Catawba Indian pottery in the United States. The Catawbas lived along the banks of rivers in this county. And because of his love of the outdoors – we have beautiful examples of arrowheads, pipes, and pottery pieces from his excavations. There are nearly 200 Indian baskets from Cherokee, Navajo, Hopi and the Catawba tribes.
This little museum also has 70,000 insect specimens and thousands of spiders, snails and mushroom examples. There are live snakes,(which I view from across the room), dinosaur bones, stuffed bears, and so much more. I learn something new every time I visit and I always come away full of new appreciation for the world around us.
But what I love best are the wonderful outdoor exhibits.
The museum has built a Catawba Indian village complete with bark houses and log cabins that represent 400 years of Catawba Indian life.
There is a beautiful nature trail that is almost a mile in length and it wanders over streams and through lovely hemlocks and pines. We were lucky enough to see footprints of a raccoon that had probably stopped to wash his supper in the creek.
There is even a Stone Age site. There are standing boulders such as you’d find at Stonehenge and even carved rocks to remind us of ancient times. Our grandchildren loved running around the stone circles.
And then there is an 18th century farm with hand hewed log cabins, 2 woolly sheep and even a few chickens hanging out near the barn.
Each year they have a “Colonial Christmas” and everyone is invited to see how Christmas was celebrated back in the time of early settlers in Piedmont Carolina. You will see volunteers dressed in old fashioned costumes, performing duties such as cutting roof shingles, shaping logs for the building of houses, planting an herb garden, cooking meat on a spit over an open fire and so much more. We missed it this year but it’s already on my “must do” list for this coming December.
Two of our grandchildren drove over for a visit the day after Christmas and we decided a little jaunt to the museum would let them expend some of their energy! It was a beautiful winter day that still held some warmth – perfect for a nature walk.
I hope you’ve got a nature museum in your hometown and that you’ll make the time for a visit. It’s amazing what you can learn – from new appreciation for plants in your own backyard, to learning what seed will bring in sweetest singing birds. You probably will come away, as I did, amazed and so glad you made the trip!
Happy memory making,
Content:Rugged Outdoors Dig Additions
Font: A.C.M.E. Secret Agent