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American Independence Museum to open Foy Family Children’s Library in 2020

The site of many American Independence Museum programs, Folsom Tavern (c. 1775) will undergo a transformation in 2020 with the creation of the Foy Family Children’s Library.

Featuring curated books, seating for children, activity table and more, the Foy Family Children’s Library is made possible by a gift from Jeff and Melissa Foy of East Kingston.

According to Jeff Foy, who has supported the museum for years as co-owner of Foy Insurance, the gift ensures “there will be a permanent place for kids at the museum.”

“My wife Melissa was an elementary school librarian before retiring and I have always loved history, so we saw a chance to combine both our passions and make a lasting impact here,” he said. “We are thrilled to be part of the museum and this project.”

In addition to a dedicated space for a children’s library, the gift will enable the museum to upgrade its entire Children’s Room, which will include high-quality games, clothes, toys and more.

“This library and space is part of a larger initiative to transform our campus into an inviting space for local community members and visitors to Exeter,” said Emma Stratton, museum Executive Director. “We are very thankful for this gift.”

Noting work will begin sometime in February or March, the Foy Family Children’s Library is expected to be complete and open for the start of the American Independence Museum’s 2020 season on May 1. 

Home to a world-class collection of 3,000 historic artifacts, the museum welcomes more than 5,000 visitors annually and distinguishes itself with educational school programs and events that make history fun and relevant.

American Independence Museum to host Volunteer Information Sessions

Volunteers are crucial to any nonprofit, which underscores the importance staff at the American Independence Museum is placing on two upcoming volunteer information session on Tuesday and Wednesday, March 5 and 6.

“Volunteers are often the first point of contact the public has with the museum,” said Victoria Su, public programs & engagement manager. “We are a very small staff of only 5 employees, and we simply could not do all we do without the help of many dedicated volunteers.”

Currently the biggest need at the museum is gift shop attendants, educators and guides.

“These are opportunities where volunteers can work closely with a very accessible and professional staff who are very open to their ideas, talents, knowledge and skills,” added Su. “Volunteers also have the opportunity to share the museum’s unique history and collection with students, guests and visitors from all over the country.”

For Manchester resident Christy Slavik Hamilton, who is a volunteer teacher educator, the American Independence Museum is “the perfect setting to help students discover that history is real and connects to today.”

“Students have access to authentic objects and documents,” she said. “The experiences we can provide are intimate and interactive, and the programs help students[…]dig deep to understand context and points of view.”

Noting she works with school groups, Hamilton said she has also helped out with special events, such as the American Independence Festival in July and Holiday Colonial Tea in December.

While Hamilton’s background is in education–she recently retired as a fifth-grade Language Arts and American History teacher in Natick, MA–museum Executive Director Emma Bray stresses that prior experience is not a requirement for volunteers.

“There are so many ways community members can become involved at the museum,” she said. “There is no one type of volunteer.”

Su agreed and said volunteers at the museum enjoy a lot of perks, some of which include year-end celebrations, free memberships, gift shop discounts, possible recognition in social media and more.

“Volunteering at the museum is a lot of fun and a rich and rewarding experience for community members and staff alike,” she said.

To learn more about volunteering, the museum will host Volunteer Information Sessions on Tuesday, March 5 from 10 to 11:30 am and on Wednesday, March 6 from 6 to 7:30 pm. Both events will be held in the museum’s Folsom Tavern at 164 Water Street in Exeter.

The American Independence Museum features more than 3,000 items in its collection, including one of only 26 surviving copies of the Dunlap Broadside of the Declaration of Independence.

The museum is a member of the 17-member NH Heritage Museum Trail, which connects the public with culturally rich heritage institutions in New Hampshire.

For more information about the NH Heritage Museum Trail, visit

American Independence Museum Receives $80,000 Grant Award

The American Independence Museum in Exeter, NH has received a $80,000 grant award from the NH Land and Community Heritage Investment Program (LCHIP) to support the rehabilitaiton of the Ladd-Gilman House (c.1721).

Home of the State Treasurer for New Hampshire and State Treasury from 1785 to 1789, the Ladd-Gilman House also served as home of the Granite State’s first Governor beginning in 1800. The complete scope of the project includes archaeology, perimeter excavation and regrading, foundation repointing, replacement of a modern stone retaining wall, restoration of rotten sills and the addition of storm doors.

“Upgrades will also be made to utility systems to help plan for future growth and enhance the structure’s energy efficiency,” said museum Executive Director Emma Bray, who expressed excitement at the award.

“We are so appreciative of LCHIP’s investment in this project at the Ladd-Gilman House, which celebrates its 300th anniversary in 2021,” she added.

The forty-two projects that received matching grants from LCHIP are spread across the state. Sixteen natural resource conservation projects will be supported by $2 million, while twenty-six historic resource projects will receive $1.9 million, all in matching grants.

Grant recipients are required to provide at least one matching dollar from another source for every dollar received from the state through LCHIP. This year, they will provide more than $3.70 for each state dollar.

The smallest grant is $7,500 for a planning study to help the Great North Woods Committee for the Arts explore what is needed to convert the former Shrine of Our Lady of Grace into a cultural and arts center. The largest grant of $350,000 will help the Southeast Land Trust of New Hampshire create the Birch Ridge Community Forest in New Durham.

The eighteen-member LCHIP Board of Directors selects the grant recipients as the culmination of a rigorous application and review process.

LCHIP’s Board Chair, Amanda Merrill of Durham said, “The LCHIP Board and staff have the responsibility and privilege of helping to protect natural, cultural and historic resources across New Hampshire. It is a pleasure to work with dedicated colleagues from local government, citizens groups and non-profits to preserve the places that make our state special.”

Home to a world-class collection of 3,000 historic artifacts, the museum welcomes more than 5,000 visitors annually and distinguishes itself with educational school programs and events that make history fun and relevant.

Specific details of the project, which will begin in the spring of 2019, will be released soon.

Museum to host final Colonial Holiday Tea of the season

With a full house in attendance for the first Colonial Holiday Tea this past at the American Independence Museum Folsom Tavern in Exeter, the final event in the series takes place on Saturday, December 8.

At the event, guests enjoy a more rustic version of a Victorian Tea with assorted finger sandwiches, scones, and cookies, which were prepared by colonial inspired caterers, For the Love of Food and Drink.

According to Executive Director Emma Bray, the event provides a fun entrypoint to “those who may not know about the museum.”

“It takes place at Folsom Tavern where George Washington once dined, so it is fun to sit and relax in this historic environment,” she said. “If you want to visit the museum in 2018, this is your last chance.”

For Bray, this past Saturday’s attendance both delighted and surprised staff.

“Any time you start a new program, you are never quite sure what might happen,” she said. “We were thrilled at the response and expect another full house this Saturday.”

At the event, which features a seating at 11am and 2pm, guests may also try their hand at making mulling spices and lavender sachets as well as practice writing with a quill pen.

Education, metaphors and shared philosophies bring two organizations together

When People’s United Bank agreed to sponsor the American Independence Museum’s evening and afternoon lecture series, Executive Director Emma Bray was thrilled.

“It is more than a fiscal sponsorship,” she said. “It’s a partnership.”

In describing ‘partnership,’ Bray went on to explain that Marc Ouellette, vice president, senior market manager at People’s United Bank, attended nearly every lecture last year when they also presented the lively educational talks.

“It was great to have Marc here and talk with our guests and get to know them as people,” she said. “Their support enables us to put on a first-class event and promote it effectively…the high attendance numbers this year support that.”

For Ouellette, partnering with the museum makes sense in several ways.

“I see the bank and the museum as branches on the same tree,” he said. “The community is this tree, and each of us have our roles. It is a wonderful partnership.”

Bray agreed and extended the metaphor of a tree a bit further. “People’s United Bank enables us to branch out into the community,” she said.

In reflecting on the partnership as a whole, Bray said it is “immensely important.”

“I tremendously value our partnership with Marc and the bank,” she said. “Their support enables us to continue to develop programs and opportunities for experiential learning that are really very important. Understanding history and its relevance to today gives us all a much needed sense of place.”

Tavern Talks are additionally supported by a Humanities-To-Go grant from the NH Humanities Council.