Our Mission

Old Salem Museums & Gardens shares the rich, authentic, and diverse cultural history of the early South–with special emphasis on the Moravians in North Carolina, enslaved and free people of African descent, and Indigenous peoples of the Southern Woodland, through the preservation and interpretation of material culture, architecture, and cultural landscapes.

Old Salem has structured its mission-driven activities around several key objectives, which together cultivate a lively and inclusive historical site. These efforts are deeply rooted in honoring the town of Salem’s rich past while ensuring its vibrancy and relevance for future generations.

At its heart, Old Salem is a home for education. As educators, we serve as ambassadors for the preservation of people, places, and communities that made the town of Salem so special. Our historic interpreters bring everything our district represents in a customized context where everyone, whether they be a kindergartener or someone with a doctorate, will walk away with something new learned.

Additionally, Old Salem invites partnerships with educational institutions (elementary through colleges and universities) to create learning opportunities for students and for adult professionals seeking curriculum-based and continuing education courses taught within the historical context of the subject.
Old Salem Museums & Gardens is dedicated to sharing the truth about the lives of all those who lived within the Salem community, including the enslaved and free people of African descent. This important community participated in building the town and worked in the shops, industries, and homes of its white residents. Their contribution to the mercantile prosperity of Salem cannot be overstated. Their descendants and the post-Emancipation African American population to the present-day are part of the story as well.

Frequently, accurately relaying these stories is hard. Old Salem is dedicated to making use of decades of research to share these hard truths and make sure that every resident of Salem is included in what we do.
Historical horticulture is crucial to the legacy of Salem.

Our efforts are aimed at highlighting the histories of Old Salem’s historic plant collection in ways that are engaging to visitors. Old Salem’s restored landscapes and gardens have always been rooted in the reintroduction of historically appropriate trees, shrubs, herbs, flowers, grains, and vegetables, including both the beautiful and the pragmatic. This effort has resulted in a significant collection of heritage plants and seeds. The histories behind these species are significant. By learning and participating in these seeds’ stories they become part of our representing a vital part of the town of Salem. 
Old Salem Museums and Gardens is dedicated to achieving the highest possible degree of engagement for all visitors, and that includes practicing the historic commercial trades that shaped the daily life of the Salem community. These trades were fundamental to the town’s development and prosperity. From blacksmithing to pottery, these craftspeople contributed significantly to the vibrant economy and deep cultural legacy of Salem.

Old Salem brings these historic trades to life through meticulous research and authentic demonstrations, ensuring the stories of all who contributed to Salem’s trades are told authentically. By highlighting the skills, innovations, and contributions of these artisans, Old Salem aims to honor the legacy of every individual who played a role in shaping the community.