Staff Stories: Barbara Rowe

For more than 115 years, Cape Fear Museum of History and Science has collected, preserved and interpreted objects relating to the history, science and cultures of the Lower Cape Fear. One of its most important treasures is the staff; particularly Curator Barbara Rowe who celebrates 29 years with the Museum in November.

After earning a bachelor of arts in American studies with a history minor and a master’s of art in history with a certificate in museum studies from the University of Delaware, Rowe launched her career at the Milwaukee Public Museum. She made the move to North Carolina in November 1986 and settled into her new position at Cape Fear Museum.

Rowe’s memories range from fond ones like finding rare artifacts from the 1700s and early 1800s and negative ones like hurricanes. “It’s so hard to find artifacts from that time period that were used or made in Wilmington, New Hanover County or the Lower Cape Fear. So when we can acquire a 1760s tea table and an 1820 side board, both made in Wilmington, that’s exciting.” She continues, “Hurricane Floyd was an absolute horror. We spent at least two months cleaning storage with Lysol to kill mold spores and re-housing our entire collection.”

Barbara let us get to know her better by answering these questions.

What is your favorite/most memorable museum experience?
Probably the time my little brother passed out in the Smithsonian Museum of History during a family trip to DC in the 1970s.  It was when he saw a model of the human body with its head decapitated so you could see all of the veins, muscles and bones in the neck.  Plop, right there among the other visitors!

Favorite object in Cape Fear Museum’s collection? 
It’s too hard to choose just one thing.  How about a collection?  For that I would have to say Henry J. MacMillan’s WWII paintings.  I never get bored looking at them.

Office supply product you can’t live without?
Technical pencils and fine point ink pens.

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
You’d have to ask someone else that!

What do you do in your spare time?
After I take care of the house and yard, I read (mostly history, biography and memoir),  knit, watch TV/movies on my Netflix streaming, and try to fit in exercise whenever possible. These days I am rowing, doing yoga, going to the Wilmington Boxing Center, and I just started a hula dance class. I also volunteer through my church.


814 Market Street • Wilmington, NC 28401 • Phone 910-798-4370 • Fax 910-798-4382