While growing up in North Carolina, Chris Woodson enjoyed taking trips to museums and historic sites with his parents. During those excursions, he became captivated with military and Civil War battlefields.
‘That got me interested early on,” Woodson said about his interest of history.
As the new director for the Sampson County History Museum, he hopes Sampsonians and other visitors absorb chronicles from the past. Before accepting the title, he was impressed with the layout of the museum.
“You see this white house on the street, but we didn’t know about all things out back,” Woodson said referring to buildings dedicated to law enforcement, agriculture and sports history. “When we got back there, we were like ‘wow, this is very impressive.’”
Woodson said he moved to the area with his wife Stephanie and their two children to enjoy the countryside and escape bigger metropolitan areas. Prior to arriving in Sampson County, Woodson worked for the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources in Raleigh and Museum of the Cape Fear Historical Complex in Fayetteville. He also worked in the Outer Banks region of the state. The Wilmington native earned a history degree from the Lees-McRae College in Banner Elk.
Through his experiences with museums and history, Woodson will continue the legacy left by former operators David and Jeannie King.
“Basically we’re just going to take what they started and try to expand on it,” Woodson said. “They gave us a really good foundation to work with.”
Woodson said the museum would like to focus on educational programs. Before his arrival, one of the goals was to collect artifacts for visitors during tours.
“It has an amazing amount of artifacts in the buildings out back,” Woodson said. “Now we kind of want to consolidate all of that into more of an educational direction and get people coming, particularly kids. Now that we have all of this stuff in place we want people to come see it.”
Another goal is to make the museum more of a destination for both Sampson County residents and others who live outside the area.
“We have a lot of traffic because of I-40 and people traveling through here from Fayetteville,” he said.
Recently, the museum received visitors from Georgia, Virginia and Upstate New York. Some of the guests had family ties to the area. Woodson recalled one family from Wilmington who decided to make a day trip after learning about the museum on the internet. The organization hopes to see more visitors in the future, but in the meantime, Woodson will continue to work on challenges such as funding.
“For any kind of museum or facility like this, you’re always going to have to encourage fundraising,” he said. “At some point we would like to work towards having a bigger staff and maybe being open more hours than we are now.”
Currently, the free museum is only open three days during the week. Hours of operation are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday through Saturday. By having more time, Woodson and museum officials will have the opportunity to educate more visitors about the importance of history.
“It connects us all to the past,” Woodson said. “Whatever we are today is because of what happened over the years. Sometimes we lose sight of that when we get caught up with all of the modern technology.”
Reach Chase Jordan at 910-249-4617. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.