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From modern postcards to a 1570 letter signed by Queen Elizabeth I, items soon on exhibit at UNC will tell the tales of early English explorer Sir Walter Raleigh.
The exhibit, “A Knight to Remember: The Life and Legacy of Sir Walter Raleigh,” will be free to the public from Oct. 18 to Jan. 31 in the N.C. Collection Gallery of UNC’s Wilson Library.
Kim Sloan, a curator at the British Museum in London, will speak on Oct. 22 about Raleigh’s efforts to colonize North America in the 1580s. Her free public talk will begin at 5:45 p.m. in the Pleasants Family Assembly Room of Wilson Library. A reception and exhibit viewing will begin at 5 p.m.
The UNC events will complement an exhibit from Oct. 20 to Jan. 13 at the N.C. Museum of History in Raleigh, the state capital named for the British explorer. “Mysteries of the Lost Colony” will examine England’s first attempts to establish settlements in America and what may have happened to the colonists on Roanoke Island — in present-day Dare County — who disappeared without a trace.
At the heart of the museum’s exhibit is the display “A New World: England’s First View of America,” featuring more than 70 watercolors by John White, an artist who participated in several voyages that Raleigh sent to this continent. White was appointed governor in 1587 of the Roanoke Island colony. The artworks are on loan from the British Museum.
“A Knight to Remember: The Life and Legacy of Sir Walter Raleigh,” at UNC, will comprise nearly 100 items, including books, maps and manuscripts; American currency bearing Raleigh’s likeness, from the 18th and 19th centuries; 16th-century travel accounts and maps; and a first edition of Raleigh’s History of the World, published in 1614 while Raleigh was imprisoned in the Tower of London.
A 1947 Sir Walter Raleigh Smoking Tobacco tin, which uses the explorer’s image and name, also will be displayed, but the exhibition will debunk the notion that Raleigh introduced tobacco to England.
“He popularized smoking as a leisure activity, but he did not introduce the plant to his country,” said Neil Fulghum, keeper of the N.C. Collection Gallery. “Tobacco had already been in use for decades in Europe as a medicinal inhalant for patients suffering from asthma and other respiratory problems.”
Most items in the exhibition are from the library’s Sir Walter Raleigh Collection. Established in 1940 with an endowment from the Roanoke Colony Memorial Association, the collection contains more than 1,000 books, drawings and manuscripts.
In the gallery’s Sir Walter Raleigh Rooms, which always are on display, visitors can see examples of Elizabethan and early Jacobean furniture, a 1593 oil portrait of Raleigh and a life-size wooden statue of him.
Hours for the exhibit are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays. For program information, contact Liza Terll at (919) 962-4207.