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Museum partner’s roots run deep in Exeter

While the specific dollar amount of a corporation’s philanthropic investment is often highlighted in the media, what is often lost are the connections between supporters and a nonprofit institution.
“Many of our business partners truly care about the museum and its mission,” said Emma Bray, executive director at the American Independence Museum in Exeter. “They contribute financially, but the most meaningful aspect is the partnership itself. They attend events, they talk about us, they engage others in our work—every nonprofit benefits tremendously from such involvement.”
A longtime supporter of the museum, Donna Buxton, owner of Buxton Oil and Buxton Water, said she “loves the museum.” She referred to it as “the hidden gem of New Hampshire.”
“People don’t know about this place, but we are lucky to have it right here in Exeter,” she said. “There is so much history throughout New Hampshire and so much beauty—and it all starts right here in Exeter.”
Founded in 1991, the American Independence Museum features Folsom Tavern and the Ladd-Gilman House, which served as NH’s State Treasury and the Governor’s Mansion in the late 1700s and early 1800s. Home to a world-class collection, including an original and rare copy of the Declaration of Independence, the museum welcomes more than 5,500 visitors annually.
For Buxton, her personal concern for the museum has led to years’ worth of volunteering, which in turn has encouraged her kids to become involved.
“My daughter worked inside the Ladd-Gilman House at the American Independence Festival this summer,” she said. “She is going to college to become a police officer and she learned about the Purple Heart here—she was amazed that we had something like that at the museum.”
Expressing gratitude at the longstanding support provided by Buxton through the years, Bray said many visitors are also surprised at the museum’s collection and role in NH history.
“The Ladd-Gilman House was home to the state’s first governor, George Washington visited our Folsom Tavern, Exeter itself served a pivotal role during the Revolutionary War—our collection tells this story,” she said.
In expressing her excitement about the museum, Buxton said she believes the Seacoast—and Exeter in particular—is a region poised for growth.
“You have history here and natural beauty,” she remarked. “It’s also safe. You can have your kids ride their bikes into downtown Exeter and get an ice cream cone and feel comfortable—that’s saying a lot.”

Busy event season continues at American Independence Museum

History can be fun and relevant, which is an idea that underscores several upcoming events at the American Independence Museum.

On Wednesday, September 27, the museum will host its popular Homeschool program. Throughout the day, students will learn from trained re-enactors who will provide glimpses into various facets of everyday colonial life. The cost is $20.00 per family (includes admission to museum). Session 1 takes place from 10 am to 11:30 am with Session 2 from 12:30 pm to 2 pm. Contact Education Manager Abigail Pietrantonio at (603) 772-2622 for more information.

Other upcoming events in October include a Genealogy Workshop, Beer for History sponsored by Hoefle Phoenix Gormley & Roberts, P.A. Attorneys at Law, and Revolutionary Story Time.

“We have a lot of fun and engaging events for all ages,” noted museum Executive Director Emma Bray. “We continue to look for ways to interest and excite people.”

About the American Independence Museum
Founded in 1991, the American Independence Museum is located in Exeter, which served as New Hampshire’s capital during the Revolutionary War. Home to a world-class collection, including an original and rare copy of the Declaration of Independence, the Museum welcomes more than 5,500 visitors annually and distinguishes itself with school programs and events that make history fun and relevant.

Museum and Business Partners work together to achieve community, business goals

In 2016, the American Independence Museum implemented a new program in which corporate “sponsors” were viewed more as “partners,” which has since helped to reshape how staff engage with both the private and public sector.

“As a nonprofit, it is important we build relationships with an eye toward strengthening the fabric of the community,” said museum Executive Director Emma Bray.

Since implementing what has become known as the “Business Partner Program,” the museum has developed more than two-dozen partnerships. In some cases, the museum brings programming to partners, such as at RiverWoods Exeter in which staff have brought the Traveling Trunk to residents. In other partnerships, corporate entities make an investment to support program development, collections care, or events like the American Independence Festival.

In addition to RiverWoods Exeter, other major committed partners in 2017 include Service Credit Union, GEICO Local Office, Hoefle Phoenix Gormley & Roberts, P.A. Attorneys at Law, Ruffner Real Estate, Optima Bank & Trust, People’s United Bank, Buxton Oil and Buxton Water, Foy Insurance, and Chinburg Properties.

“All of these partnerships are critical to our mission to educate and inspire people of all ages,” added Bray. “By working together, we can positively impact the greater Exeter community, which is thriving and poised for sustained growth.”

People’s United Bank to present next talk in educational lecture series

At the next talk in the American Independence Museum’s Educational Lecture Series, presented by People’s United Bank, the Declaration of Independence will take center stage as UNH Professor James Farrell will re-examine this seminal document.

“Professor Farrell will look at the Declaration of Independence as a rhetorical argument that made a point to a specific audience at that time,” said museum Executive Director Emma Bray. “It really made the case against the King of England.”

Titled “Re-Reading the Declaration of Independence: America’s Sacred Document as a Rhetorical Argument,” the lecture will take place from 7 pm to 8 pm on Wednesday, September 6 at Folsom Tavern in downtown Exeter.

“It should also be noted that this lecture topic connects to the museum’s own collection, which includes an original copy of the first official printing of the Declaration of Independence known as a Dunlap Broadside,” she added.

Bray credited the partnership with People’s United Bank as instrumental to the success of the series as a whole.

“These events engage the community, educate and inspire,” she said. “People’s United Bank shares in our vision and participates in these talks. It’s a true community collaboration.”

Remaining talks include: “When Shipping Was King: The Piscataqua Region in Colonial America” on September 21; “Secrets of the American Independence Museum: Collection Close-Up” on November 7; and “Your Most Important Role in a Democracy: Thinking for Yourself” on November 16.

Due to limited space, email to pre-register for a seat.

Time for stories and play at the American Independence Museum

This past spring, the American Independence Museum in Exeter offered its first program for preschool age children with Revolutionary Story Time.

Housed in the museum’s 1775 Folsom Tavern, the program has recently been expanded to include 90 additional minutes of playtime, crafts, colonial games, and opportunities to try on colonial outfits. Previous to playtime, a costumed re-enactor will tell stories and possibly sing colonial-inspired music.

“We want kids and their parents and caregivers to have fun and enjoy our beautiful property in downtown Exeter,” said the museum’s Victoria Su. “At the same time, kids will learn a little bit of history—learning and literacy can be fun.”

The next Revolutionary Story Time is scheduled for Thursday, September 7 from 9:30 am to 12 pm. Noting the museum is committed to educating visitors of all ages, Executive Director Emma Bray thanked Exeter Hospital for their support of the inaugural series.

“We are very appreciative that Exeter Hospital saw the potential of this program to promote the health and well-being of the community,” she said. “We will continue to look for ways to make our campus as accessible and family-friendly as possible.”

In addition to September 7, others scheduled dates for Revolutionary Story Time include October 5 and November 2.

Reservations are suggested for this program while donations are encouraged, as all proceeds will benefit the museum. Due to the historic nature of the tavern, strollers are not allowed.

For more information, or to register for Revolutionary Story Time, email