Immersive exhibit offers glimpse into NC’s oldest town

North State Journal—North State Journal
A rainbow over the Pamlico River in Beaufort County on July 4

BATH, N.C. — The small hamlet of Bath is a historically dense town filled with stories of pirates and legends of curses among every street and waterway. “A town of firsts,” Bath is home to the Historic Bath State Historic Site, an organization devoted to welcoming individuals interested in learning more. The site has seen growth through a recently developed exhibit in a remodeled Bath High School building, built in the early 1920’s.

“It’s very exciting for us to finally have an exhibit where people can come and learn about why they came to Bath and why it’s exciting that Bath is here,” Site Manager Laura Rogers said.

Bath’s story begins thousands of years ago with the American Indians such as the Secotan and Calico tribes. In the late 1600’s, the area saw its first European settlements, with the town of Bath being incorporated in 1705. The town continues to recognize and explore its history in depth through the Bath State Historic Site.

“It’s an immersive exhibit that allows people to experience a little bit more, the artifacts can be illustrated in a more visual manner,” Rogers said.

The exhibit has been in development for over four years, and throughout the past two years, staff have been focused on research, design, and development of the exhibit. The exhibit opened in December 2022.

“It was installed almost entirely in-house by our very talented crafts services and curatorial services departments,” Rogers said. “It’s one of our larger exhibits. We’re not a museum, we’re a historic site, so our exhibits are meant to complement our historic physical grounds and structures.”

The exhibit begins by featuring the American Indians who lived in the area, and visitors step inside a partial reconstruction of an American Indian dwelling based on drawings done by John White in the 1580’s. While walking through, visitors can learn more about the early European settlers and eventually step onto a dock to enter a ship that helps illustrate Bath’s primary shipping industry. They can enter a home to see what day-to-day life was like for historic Bath, and then a tavern to learn more about Bath’s politics. Towards the end of the exhibit, the Bath of the 20th century is also showcased to give visitors a feel for more recent history.

“Previously our only way to communicate was to just talk to people, which is great. I love talking about Bath, but not everyone wants to talk about it,” Rogers said. “It gives everyone a little bit more context.”

Historic Bath State Historic Site also hosts many events throughout the year including a Mid-Summer Country Ball, ghost walks just in time for Halloween, and much more.

“Visitors will definitely learn a lot more about North Carolina’s incorporated town which is an important thing to learn about if you’re a North Carolinian or if you’re just passing through the area,” said Rogers.