Our best museum is open on Thanksgiving Day

Nov. 20, 2013 @ 09:53 PM

Think about what you are going to do on Thanksgiving Day.
Especially if you will have a lot of visitors.
Most museums are closed on Thanksgiving. So you cannot take them for a quick visit to one of the current museum exhibits like The Sahmat Collective at the Ackland or Southern Scenery in 3D at the Wilson Library.
But our best museum is outdoors and open all the time. It is a museum of art and history. Of botany and biology and geology. Of architecture and religion. Of race relations and politics. Thousands of exhibits and thousands of stories are waiting to unfold to those who will search and wait and listen.
This museum, of course, is our town. Almost every house, tree, wall, hill, corner, and stream has its story and its lessons.
Here are a few to check out this Thanksgiving.
Outdoor Museum Exhibit #1: Gimghoul Castle. (At the end of Gimghoul Road.)
People to travel to Europe to see castles. We have one just around the corner.
In the 1920s, Waldensian stone workers from Valdese built it for the Gimghoul Society, a secret, fraternity-like organization.
Your visitors might wonder, why did people build castles anyway? Would this castle withstand an attack by knights on horseback? Or by a foe armed with gunpowder and cannons?
Outdoor Museum Exhibit Number #2: The outdoor murals of Michael Brown.
Beginning at the giant pencil on the wall between Henderson Street and the post office, you can walk all the way to the border of Carrboro and never be more than a few steps from one of Brown's murals. All are different, and each one has been my favorite at one time or another.
I really enjoy the wonderful picture called “People Walking Up the Wall” on the side of the former Bank of America building. It makes you think you are looking down on a town square. Just across Rosemary Street, Brown takes you into the water to see his giant turtle. And, back on Franklin Street along the alleyway next to the Carolina Coffee Shop, his whimsical historical piece of an imaginary parade shows that a sense of humor can be a happy complement to artistic talent.
Outdoor Museum Exhibit #3: “Student Body,” an outdoor sculpture, is on the UNC campus in a hard-to-find courtyard at the rear of Manning Hall, near Hamilton Hall. On Thanksgiving you can park near the old Playmakers Theatre and be just a few steps away.
When “Student Body” first arrived and was placed in front of the Davis Library in the early 1990s, there was an immediate angry protest based on perceived racial and gender stereotyping of the statutes of supposedly typical students.
I like “Student Body,” but there is also controversy about its artistic worth.
If none of these three exhibits interests you, our outdoor museum has many more. The gargoyles from London's “Big Ben,” now on the side of Person Hall. The wonderful pathways and plants in the Coker Arboretum and the Botanical Garden. The lively outdoor sculptures on Weaver Street in Carrboro.
And on and on. Our Chapel Hill Outdoor Museum never runs out of exhibits.
Take your friends outside on Thanksgiving and show them the town.
D.G. Martin hosts “North Carolina Bookwatch,” which airs Sundays at noon and Thursdays at 5 p.m. on UNC-TV. For more information or to view prior programs visit the webpage at www.unctv.org/ncbookwatch.