Wednesday, January 5, 2022

N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources Celebrates 50th Anniversary in 2022

Jan 5, 2022

In 2022, the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources will celebrate 50 years as a state cabinet-level agency with regional celebrations and online content planned throughout the year.

Secretary D. Reid Wilson made the following statement on the anniversary:

“The North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources is the department of everything people love about North Carolina. We have the honor of managing, enhancing, and celebrating our state’s rich history, diverse arts and culture, science, and spectacular natural areas. From hiking trails to museums, historical spaces to wildlife conservation, cultural celebrations to live concerts, for 50 years our department has been part of the lives of all North Carolinians. Our sites and stories create a shared sense of identity among North Carolinians, and literally provide common ground. All are welcome.

“The year ahead promises to be transformational as the department makes good on substantial new state budget investments in operations, grants to local organizations, and numerous capital projects. These expenditures will help the department expand its efforts to: educate children about inclusive history, science, and diverse culture; improve public health through expanded outdoor recreation and clean water projects; stimulate local economies; strengthen diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility across the department; strengthen community resiliency to climate change; continue enhancing our existing facilities, add some new ones, and extend our outreach efforts to help North Carolina thrive and prosper.”  

Throughout 2022, DNCR will celebrate this milestone anniversary with online campaigns, regional “DNCR Days” to showcase the department’s offerings across the state, and much more. Follow #DNCR50 on social media all year long to learn more about us and find out about upcoming events. Everyone is invited to join us in the celebration!

History of DNCR

Many of the department’s offices and divisions were founded as separate, independent institutions, including the State Library of North Carolina, founded in 1812; the North Carolina Museum of History, founded in 1902; and the North Carolina Symphony, founded in 1943. These organizations either remained independent or were combined under the state’s Office of Archives and History.  Following an administrative reorganization in 1971 that aimed to create governor’s cabinet agencies, the N.C. Department of Art, Culture, and History was created in February 1972, becoming the first cabinet-level office of any state in the country to manage the state’s history, arts, and culture.

The department’s first secretary was Sam Ragan, a poet and arts advocate who later became North Carolina Poet Laureate. It was renamed to the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources in 1973, when Grace Rohrer succeeded Ragan, becoming the first woman to hold a cabinet-level office in North Carolina.

In September 2015, the Department of Cultural Resources was renamed the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources following a legislative transfer of several divisions to the department, including North Carolina's state parks, aquariums, zoo, Museum of Natural Sciences, the Clean Water Management Trust Fund (now the North Carolina Land and Water Fund), and the North Carolina Natural Heritage Program.

Today, DNCR is responsible for North Carolina treasures literally from A to Z – from the arts to the zoo – spanning the entire state. We are home to:

  • 27 state historic sites, where you can step back in time and experience the places where many of North Carolina’s most significant historical events actually happened
  • 7 history museums, which interpret more than 14,000 years of our state’s history
  • 2 art museums, where you can see works by old masters and cutting-edge contemporary artists
  • 3 science museums, including the Museum of Natural Sciences flagship museum, the state’s most visited museum
  • 3 aquariums and Jennette’s Pier, featuring North Carolina’s diverse coastal ecosystems and wildlife
  • 41 state parks and recreation areas, preserving 250,000 acres of beautiful natural areas across the state
  • The North Carolina Zoo, the world’s largest natural habitat zoo
  • The North Carolina Symphony, the country’s first state-supported symphony
  • The State Library
  • The State Archives
  • The North Carolina Arts Council, which supports arts organizations in all 100 counties
  • The State Historic Preservation Office, which helps to protect historically significant properties
  • The Office of State Archaeology
  • The African American Heritage Commission, which works to protect and preserve our state’s African American art, history, and culture
  • The Office of Land and Water Stewardship, which helps protect water quality and preserve natural areas across North Carolina
  • The Highway Historical Marker Program, which has installed more than 1,600 historical markers across the state, with at least one in every county
  • A new American Indian Heritage Commission, as established in the recently-enacted state budget

Yep, we do all that.

About the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources

The N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources (NCDNCR) is the state agency with a vision to be the leader in using the state's natural and cultural resources to build the social, cultural, educational and economic future of North Carolina. NCDNCR's mission is to improve the quality of life in our state by creating opportunities to experience excellence in the arts, history, libraries and nature in North Carolina by stimulating learning, inspiring creativity, preserving the state's history, conserving the state's natural heritage, encouraging recreation and cultural tourism, and promoting economic development.
NCDNCR includes 27 historic sites, seven history museums, two art museums, three science museums, three aquariums and Jennette's Pier, 41 state parks and recreation areas, the N.C. Zoo, the N.C. Symphony Orchestra, the State Library, the State Archives, the N.C. Arts Council, the African American Heritage Commission, State Preservation Office and the Office of State Archaeology, and the Division of Land and Water Stewardship. For more information, please visit

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