A Place for H. H. Brimley: The N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences

H. H. Brimley poses in the Museum of Natural Sciences in 1934.  Image from the State Archives

On April 4, 1946, H. H. Brimley died.

Visitors to the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences in downtown Raleigh encounter one exhibit that is distinctly different from all the rest. It is the cluttered office of Herbert Hutchinson Brimley, the museum’s original curator and first director. Brimley’s tenure at the museum stretched from 1895 until his death more than 50 years later.

Brimley and his brother Clement emigrated from England to America in 1880, and shortly thereafter opened a taxidermy shop in Raleigh. They quickly gained reputations as two of the South’s leading naturalists.

Their first work for the state was to create an exhibit on waterfowl and fishes for the State Exposition of 1884. The Department of Agriculture, which oversaw the display, found the exhibit too valuable to discard. The department found a more permanent place in its halls for the exhibit and, in time, found a more permanent place for Brimley, too, as the exhibit’s curator and director of the museum it began.

Once simply the State Museum, the institution has been the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences since 1986. One of North Carolina’s most popular attractions, the museum now averages more than 700,000 visitors per year.

Click here to see more historical photos of Brimley and the Museum of Natural Sciences from the State Archives.

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