The Scrap Exchange was founded in 1991 by a small group of people who were seeking to establish a sustainable supply of high-quality, low-cost materials for artists, educators, parents, and other creative people.

One of the founders, Chris Rosenthal, had worked in Australia for an organization called The Reverse Garbage Truck, and The Scrap Exchange was patterned on that organization.

For the first 9 years of its existence, The Scrap Exchange was housed in donated space at Northgate Mall.

In January 2000, the store invested in an upfit of space in the Liberty Warehouse, a former tobacco warehouse of historic significance in a newly emerging arts district in the Central Park district of downtown Durham.

In May 2011, a portion of the Liberty Warehouse roof collapsed, the building was condemned by the City of Durham, and The Scrap Exchange relocated to the newly christened Cordoba Center for the Arts at the east end of downtown, across the parking lot from the Golden Belt complex.

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