The Cowan Museum of History and Science was founded in 1981 by George and Ila Cowan as a memorial to their daughter, Joann Cowan Brown. It is housed within the Kelly-Farrior House (ca. 1848) and has an adjacent historical park with 6 buildings, which include a log cabin, general store, and a tobacco barn. Also on the grounds is a botanical garden with approximately 90 species of commercially-available native plants in what has become the region's first free, public native-plant-focused botanical landscape garden. This outdoor space, which is open 24-hours a day, has pollinator gardens, a wet meadow garden, Longleaf Pine upland garden, and a Bald Cypress wetland garden.
Of the 4,300 objects in the collections, about 2,000 were donated to Duplin County by the Cowan family, with most focusing on 19th and 20th century tools and technology that document a history of innovation, resourcefulness, and creativity. Objects on display include a diversity of woodworking tools, gardening tools, agricultural implements, items used in a variety of crafts and trades, medical devices, many household artifacts, and an impressive collection of geological specimens. Unique items may be encountered onsite, such as a 1930s permanent wave machine, an alternative fuel fan, and a hog oiler.
The Cowan Museum of History and Science is a department of Duplin County.
Robin Grotke, Director, MA, Anthropology/Museum Studies.
Anne Skinner, STEM Educator, MS, Geology.
Meagan Jasinski, Museum Assistant, Naturalist.
Jennifer Ramirez, Museum Assistant, Community Spanish Interpreter.
P.O. Box 950
Kenansville, NC 28349
411 S. Main Street
Kenansville, NC 28349
HOURS OF OPERATION:
We are open Tuesday - Saturday, 10:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.
Due to COVID-19, the following temporary changes are effective September 8, 2020:
1. Up to 10 visitors may be in the main building at a time.
2. Face masks are mandatory.
3. All tours are self-guided.
4. No public restrooms are available at this time.
5. Please follow social distancing guidelines from the CDC.
Admission is FREE; Donations are appreciated; Wheelchair access to the first floor galleries of the Kelly-Farrior House is provided.
The botanical garden trail is made of crushed stone and meets the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Standards for Accessible Design.
The Museum's blacksmith shop is a reproduction and was built on the grounds in the 1990s. It represents what was a necessary structure for many old farm home sites.
Additionally onsite is the 19th century general store and Natural Wells Post Office donated by the Stephen Boone family. It was once operated by James C. Boone, who was Postmaster from 1892-1903 and the structure was located about four miles west of Rose Hill.
The post office/general store was renovated in 2018. Feel welcome to take a seat inside the store and play a game of checkers.
Built in the late 1930s by Dr. W. Dallas Herring of Rose Hill, the cabin represents a typical home used by settlers before the Revolutionary War. Until its move to the Museum, it was used for Dr. Herring’s office; for the Rose Hill Town Library; Boy Scouts meetings; and was also located on the James Sprunt Community College campus in Kenansville.
Dr. Herring is considered the philosophical godfather of North Carolina’s Community College System and is best known for his belief that education should be available
In 2018 the log cabin was renovated, thanks to a generous grant from the NC Department of Natural and Cultural Resources (NC DNCR).
Originally a corn crib, onsite is a mid-19th century building now used as the Museum’s schoolhouse. It was made of hand-hewed timbers chinked together and is representative of many one-room schoolhouses that were used in Duplin County.
Donated by the Bill Jones family.
Meats (especially pork) were commonly preserved with salt. A small smoky fire was kept going for several days to further cure the meat. Other foods, like apple butter and pickles, were also stored here in crocks or barrels.
This building was donated in 1985 by Edith B. Hoy and Rachel McNeill in memory of Abb J. Blanton. It had been located off Hwy 24 in Kenansville
The tobacco barn, a type of functionally classified barn found in the United States, was once an essential component in the process of air-curing tobacco. Built in 1925, our tobacco barn was used until 1978.
Donated by the Grover Rhodes family.
The Joann Cowan Brown Botanical Garden is unique among North Carolina's other public gardens because its plant collection is composed with plants native to our State. Nearly 90 North Carolina native plant species are represented by more than 300 individual plants in this accessible garden, which highlights native species adapted to coastal plain soils, climate, and topography.
Many of the trees and shrubs on display are species that have been used in American landscapes since 1850, around the time the Kelly-Farrior House (the Museum’s main building) was built. These include such plants as Clethra (Summersweet), Fothergilla (Witch Alder), Winterberry, Elderberry, Blueberry, Callicarpa (Beautyberry), Fringe Tree, Dogwood. American Beech, Witch Hazel, Itea (Virginia Sweetspire), Red Cedar, Swamp Bay, and Adam's Needle (Yucca).
Plants were also selected for this garden using the guiding principle, "right plant-right place"(Habitats Gardens, LLC), with attention to the site's water-holding sandy-clay soils and sunny exposure. In keeping with historic gardening, this garden thrives without modern irrigation. As a demonstration garden, plants were also selected based on their respective availability in the nursery trade. In fact, all the plants on display were obtained from NC nurseries.
The Joann Cowan Brown Botanical Garden was made possible with grant funding provided by the NC Department of Natural and Cultural Resources, through the NC Museum of Natural Sciences. Our idea for a native plant garden was inspired by this ecoregion's natural heritage, including the rivers, forests, and grassy meadows that first drew people to this area. With cultural heritage artifacts on display in and around the Museum, including historic gardening tools, it was a logical fit to install an accessible garden space where visitors may observe the living connection between our natural and cultural heritage.
Long before being transformed into a botanical garden, the property around the Museum was forest habitat, dominated by stately old live oak, tulip poplar, water oak, American holly, and other trees and large shrubs. As Kenansville grew into a community, the forest was replaced by open recreational fields and parks with a turf grass-dominated landscape.
The area where a botanical garden now grows was a patch of turf grass with little diversity and appeal. Today, that grass has been replaced by a collection of native plants adapted to the local environment and provides important ecosystem services to everyone's benefit, including wildlife, songbirds, and pollinating insects. The insects, attracted by flowering plants, are in turn supporting insect-eating toads, tree frogs, lizards, and birds.
As you explore the garden you may see leaves being chewed by caterpillars, grasshoppers, and other plant-eaters. This is a full-service garden that welcomes even plant-eaters including butterfly caterpillars. For this reason, no pesticides are used and yet the plants thrive because gardens composed with many different kinds of plants are attractive to many different kinds of wildlife, including insect-eaters. In addition to being a space that supports and nourishes local creatures, the Joann Cowan Brown Botanical Garden is a welcoming space where people can connect with their natural heritage, outdoors in nature.
Make sure to visit the Ila Cowan Kitchen Garden, too!
We are happy to announce that through the NC Science Museums Grant Program, under the NC Museum of Natural Sciences and the NC Department of Natural and Cultural Resources, we were awarded funds to help sustain the Museum and grow STEM/STEAMA education programs for schoolkids and the public, such as:
Please email Anne Skinner for more information: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Below are resources that students, families, caregivers, and the general public may take advantage of during the COVID-19 pandemic. We hope you enjoy them.
Smithsonian Virtual Exhibitions:
Learn about such things as habitats; the plants, animals, and humans that call them home; and the importance of protecting habitats.
Visitors to this site may explore exhibit subjects, like “Gardening for the Common Good,”“Gardening for Science,” “Gardening for the Environment,” and “Gardening to Impress."
Smithsonian Distance Learning Resources:
Here you will find a spreadsheet showing grade level, theme/topic, resource name, URL, NGSS standard, and whether material is available in Spanish.
This spreadsheet is divided into categories that include: Games, Maker – Low tech & High tech, Activities (Art & Design, History & Culture, Science & Nature), and Resources (Art & Design, History & Culture, Science & Nature).
North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences:
Do activities like the Water Tension Experiment.
Watch short videos, like Why Carpenter Bees Drill Holes In Houses.
North Carolina Science Festival:
Check out this site's projects and activities page.
San Francisco Exploratorium Online Learning:
Anne Skinner, Museum STEM Educator, holding an outdoor program.
1st Grade Ag Lesson with Meagan Jasinski.
1st Grade Ag Lesson with Anne Skinner
1st Grade Ag Program with Anne Skinner
Our science programs for 5th grade students will help them build a strong foundation in science while having fun in order to develop positive attitudes toward science. Further, we hope to develop skills and content knowledge for students that they will build on throughout their school years.
Here is a part of our Museum STEM Educator's climate change lesson.
The Cowan Museum of History and Science collects, preserves, and interprets objects relating to local history and the sciences. We strive to inspire the joy of learning about our world and how to make it a better place.
To be recognized as a vital resource that meets the historical, cultural, and educational needs of the community (community defined as local, state, national and international audiences of all ages and backgrounds).
The historical park in winter.
The Joann Cowan Brown Botanical Garden is part of the ecoEXPLORE program!
ecoEXPLORE (Experiences Promoting Learning Outdoors for Research and Education) is an incentive-based citizen science program for children in grades K-8. Developed by The North Carolina Arboretum, this innovative pilot program combines science exploration with kid-friendly technology to foster a fun learning environment for children while encouraging them to explore the outdoors and participate in citizen science.
Please join us in our botanical garden for tea and hors d'oeuvres while enjoying an outdoor art show. In addition to delighting in the colorful spring blossoms, artwork, and sips of heavenly tea, attendees may take home a teacup as a memento of a special day spent at the Cowan Museum
And, look for our friends from the Cape Fear Parrot Sanctuary!
Call to reserve a spot.
*This event is tentative based on the COVID-19 situation.
Bring a lawn chair and watch a movie projected onto the Kelly-Farrior House.
Free to the public.
Check back soon for more details.
As the world has become more interconnected, it is more important than ever to inspire people of all ages to create positive social change. The Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES) has partnered with the educational organization Facing History and Ourselves to dramatically increase access to the themes and content presented in its national initiative “Choosing to Participate” with poster exhibition designed to encourage dialogue, engagement, respect, and participation in classrooms and communities.
Developed for middle school and high school students, the posters are intended to inspire people of all ages to create positive social change. The posters present the experiences of individuals and communities, explore the impact of cultural differences, and encourage viewers to consider the consequences of everyday choices—to discover how “little things are big”—and to make a difference in their own communities.
3/4 Sleeve; Lightweight; Cotton and polyester combination; Unisex; Sizes are M and L.
Suggested donation: $15.00
One adjustable size.
Suggested donation: $15.00
Ceramic mug, which measures 4"H x 3.25"W x 4.5"D; Museum address, printed in green, on the reverse side.
Suggested donation: $20.00
Measures 18"W x 24"H (including strap length); Black carrying straps; Museum logo on front and back.
Suggested donation: $25.00