Home Full of History
Burgwin-Wright House welcomes the community
History can be everything and nothing at the same time. For those who cherish the well-rounded knowledge that comes from studying history, there are others who do not realize why it is so important to understand where we come from. CHRISTINE LAMBERTON is the museum director for the Burgwin-Wright House and Gardens in Wilmington, and history has always been a part of her life.
“I was born in raised in Normandy, France and later in Washington D.C. in a household of history lovers,” says Lamberton. “I’ve always associated learning about history and visiting historic sites/museums as a family activity – something you do when you go on vacation or have a day off.”
This led her to study history in college but at the time she intended to use is as a springboard for a different career like law, she says.
“For fun, I chose to take public history, a new class being offered, and fell in love with the idea of using your history degree in various ways that bridge academia with the public – I could now be an interpreter, educator, collections manager, archivist, curator, and much more,” she says.
After getting her master’s degree from UNCW in museum education, she discovered a love for historic homes where she could interpret local history as it relates to national and international history.
“I enjoy working with local history and the community,” says Lamberton. “Working at the Burgwin-Wright House as a public historian enables me to bridge the gap between history and the public. A lot of people will say they don’t like history; what they mean is they don’t like how history was taught in school.”
A historic home makes for the perfect environment to make connections with visitors, no matter the era that is interpreted, because everyone understands and/or has, in one shape or form, a home, she says
The Burgwin-Wright House and Gardens is the oldest and largest historic site open to the public in downtown Wilmington. Of eight colonial structures remaining in the city, four are located on this property; three stone buildings, circa 1744, that served as the city jail, and John Burgwin’s 1770 townhouse.
It is hard to believe what Wilmington was like in the 1700s, but that is why history is so important and why places like the Burgwin-Wright House are so fascinating and worthy of preservation.
“Operated as a museum, the property offers visitors a unique opportunity to view one of the finest examples of Georgian architecture in the state and to experience what life was like during pre-revolutionary Wilmington for the people who lived and worked in the house, both free and enslaved,” says Lamberton. “All rooms have been restored to their original 1770 colors, furnished with 18th century antiques and showcase hundreds of artifacts.”
There is a visitor center on the ground floor which houses a gift shop, art gallery and exhibit hall. There’s a map of the acre of colonial-style gardens that explains and illustrates what was once there when it was a jail and later a home.
Additionally, the house offers special events for those with a desire for a unique historical experience.
“Every first Friday evening of the month, we have a night tour, every fourth Friday of the month we are have an art show opening reception that features a local artist in conjunction with Fourth Friday Gallery Night,” says Lamberton.
The house also hosts craft markets throughout the year, and a podcast called Burgwin-Wright Presents with its first season released this spring called “Outlander in the Cape Fear” that tackled
fact vs. fiction by interviewing historians, producers, and authors who discuss events and people featured in the books/show.
The National Society of The Colonial Dames of America in the State of North Carolina owns and operates the Burgwin-Wright House and Gardens.
To fulfill its mission of education, the home welcomes every fourth grader in the county as part of the field trip “People of the Past.”
“We are a Blue Star Museum which waives admission for active military and their families in the summertime,” she says. “We work tirelessly to restore and preserve the four structures, so they may be visited and enjoyed by many more generations.”
To view more of photographer Michael Cline Spencer’s work, go to michaelclinephoto.com.
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