History of Onslow County Museum

Annie K. Ragsdale and Ione Griese, two prominent Richlands women, were united by a shared determination to preserve the rapidly vanishing history of Onslow County. They resolved one Sunday morning after church to act on this vision and start a museum in Richlands.

Community Donations

The Museum's beginnings were humble, but various members of the community demonstrated their interest by donating valuable artifacts reflecting days gone by. An important base for the collection was the donation of artifacts from the now defunct Swansboro Historical Society.

First Director

Beginning as a volunteer with the fledgling museum in 1976, Albert Potts, a newly transplanted resident, was hired as the first Director when the Museum became a county agency in 1980.

Old Bank Building Location

For many years the home of the Onslow County Museum was an upstairs portion of the old bank building in downtown Richlands, later growing to include a small adjacent storefront area that was home to not only changing exhibits, but also special public events and an annual summer art program for children. The Museum collection began expanding as artifacts from different aspects of local history became available.


As the Museum became a more recognizable entity, support grew slowly but surely, and staffing increased to four by 1989; a full-time Director, Assistant Director, part-time Registrar, and Education Coordinator. The history of the county was told through many different changing exhibits, and the Museum was soon overflowing with objects, making it clear that a newer, larger facility was much needed.

Construction of New Building

In 1992, the County Commissioners forged ahead with a decision to purchase 3.5 acres of land in Richlands for a new facility and set aside approximately one million dollars for its construction. The new multi-functional Museum and Branch Library plan encompassed 18,000 square feet, with approximately 15,000 square feet set aside for the Museum. Moving the Museum "just down the street" took many months of planning until November 1994, when the old Museum's contents, including artifacts, were moved into the brand new facility.

Water & Wood Exhibit

The Onslow County Museum staff soon began a long-term plan for a new, permanent exhibit that would tell the story of Onslow County from its pre-historic beginnings to the present day-a daunting task. Funding was not set aside for the exhibit itself, so the Museum's Foundation began a capital campaign to raise the half-million dollars needed for planning, designing and installation.

Gaines Brown Design of Charlotte was retained as the exhibit design firm, and the Museum Foundation continued its fundraising efforts. The Water and the Wood exhibit, planned and written by Museum staff, was opened to the public on May 1, 1999, a crowning achievement for all those involved.


Today, the Onslow County Museum is recognized as an important local history museum and serves the public through its permanent exhibit, changing exhibits, outreach programs to schools, and sponsorship of special events. The staff comprises the Museum Director, Collections Manager, Education Coordinator, and Office Assistant.

Photo Gallery

View photos of the old museum building as well as the construction of the current facility.