Rural Heritage Museum

Fb F Logo  Blue 29 The Rural Heritage Museum hours are 11:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday.
The museum is closed on Mondays.
The museum is open all year except Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, New Years Day, Good Friday, Easter, and all Mondays.

Director: Les Reker
Interested in a guided tour? Please email:
Office: 828-689-1400
P.O. Box 6705

Mars Hill, NC 28754



"THE CAROLINA MOUNTAINS: The Photography of Margaret Morley"
From the North Carolina Museum of  History.


Our current exhibition of photographs by Margaret Morley will run until July 10th.
Our next exhibition, which will open Tues., July 25, will feature a selection of objects from the Museum's permanent collection.
The Museum will be closed for installation for two weeks prior to that.
Please call ahead of you have any questions.

The Rural Heritage Museum at Mars Hill University presents The Carolina Mountains: The Photography of Margaret Morley from the North Carolina Museum of History. This exhibition showcases the work of the early twentieth century photographer, writer, and educator, Margaret Warner Morley.

Over 50 photographs from a collection of 244 comprise this exhibition; the photos are on loan from the North Carolina Museum of History, which received them as a donation in 1914.

Margaret Morley arrived in western North Carolina’s mountains just as railroads, industry, tourists, and missionaries were introducing modernity to the remote region. A writer, illustrator, photographer, educator, and biologist, Morley realized the traditional way of life was quickly passing and set out to capture it with words and images before it disappeared. Her works reflect the simple grace and rugged beauty of life in Western North Carolina during an era characterized by modernization and increasing population. Miss Morley captured special people, flora and fauna, and stunning mountain scenes as she traveled, camera in hand, around the region from her working base in Tryon, over the course of a dozen years.

Margaret Warner Morley was born on February 17, 1858, in Montrose, Iowa, but she grew up in Brooklyn, New York. After graduating from New York City Normal College in 1878, she pursued graduate studies in biology and taught or lectured in five states. During that time, she became an internationally known expert on agriculture and beekeeping.

Though she was known primarily as a children’s author, her bestselling 1913 book was for adult readers and entitled The Carolina Mountains . It remains renowned for its definitive and respectful depiction of our uniquely lovely and complex mountain culture.This exhibition will feature more than 50 photographic prints made from the 244 original Appalachian mountain photographs by Margaret Morley from a collection of works donated to the Museum of History in 1914.

Margaret Morley arrived in Tryon, NC around the turn of the twentieth century, just as railroads, industry, tourists, and missionaries were introducing modernity to the remote region. Morley realized the traditional way of life for the Appalachian mountaineer was passing and she set out to capture that way of life with words and images before it disappeared. Morley authored seventeen books.

In 1923 Houghton Mifflin published Morley's detailed descriptions and images of her newfound friends and homeland in the book, The Carolina Mountains. The book became an immediate success and, nearly a century later, is still considered one of the best works about the Mountain region. Ms Morley's brilliant and timeless wilderness photography, as well as sensitive depiction of the mountain folks, brings to life the unique quality of life that was once prevalent in this region. 
                                                                                        Bw Morley Margaret Oval





New Blue Ridge Heritage Trail Sign Installed at the RURAL HERITAGE MUSEUM

Brnha Sign Lunsford Dillingham Reker

(left to right) Dr. Dan Lunsford, University President, Mr. Richard Dillingham, University Historian and first Director of the Museum, and Mr. Les Reker, current Director of the Rural Heritage Museum.

A new interpretive wayside sign greets visitors to the Rural Heritage Museum in Mars Hill and is one of 69 such signs being installed on the new Blue Ridge Heritage Trail. The Trail is a collection of special places throughout the North Carolina Mountains and foothills that embody the remarkable history and culture of the region, and is an initiative of the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area Partnership. (BRNHA).

At each location, the sign tells the stories of the people and places that have shaped the distinctive heritage of the 25 westernmost counties in North Carolina. The (Site location name) sign tells the story about the Rural Heritage Museum.
In addition to the signs, the Trail will be enhanced with the installation of interactive kiosks in five NC Welcome Centers that greet visitors to the region, plus a map brochure and website to help them get around the region and learn more about each site.

This initiative is designed to attract and inform visitors, students, and residents alike about the many natural and cultural heritage attractions in the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area. The goal is to encourage people to discover places they may not know about. It is not a “Point A to Point B” trail, but rather many stops throughout the region. People can enjoy a single stop or piece together several sites by theme, town, region or activity to create their own personalized “trail.” QR codes on each sign will enable people with smart phones to locate other nearby sites.

The Blue Ridge Heritage Trail is a project of the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area Partnership and was supported by Federal Highway.
Transportation Enhancement funding administered through the North Carolina Department of Transportation and Haywood County, NC.

PAST EXHIBITIONS: “OUR STORY – THIS PLACE”: The History of African American Education in Madison County, North Carolina: The Mars Hill Anderson Rosenwald School

Exhibition dates: September 14, 2014 – February, 28, 2015
“INTERWOVEN: Coverlets, Ballads, and America’s Discovery of Madison County Folklife.”
Exhibition dates: September 29, 2013 - August 13, 2014.