Select Page

Museum to offer inside look at 18th century buildings

Building on the success of last year’s series, the American Independence Museum will host three Architecture Tours in 2019, scheduled for May 29, June 13, and September 24.

A ‘behind the scenes’ look at the ca. 1721 Ladd-Gilman House and ca. 1775 Folsom Tavern, the Architecture Tour provides insight into the evolution of both buildings, respective decorative styles and architectural features.

“There is so much history behind these structures that we thought it would be fun to take people into areas of the buildings you won’t find on a standard tour,” said museum Executive Director Emma Bray.

Among many interesting historical footnotes, the Ladd-Gilman House was home to NH’s fifth Governor, John Taylor Gilman, who served in such capacity for a total of 14 years from 1794 to 1816. In 1985, a Dunlap Broadside, the first official printing of the Declaration of Independence, was re-discovered in its attic.

Originally built in the center of downtown Exeter where Me & Ollie’s exists today, Folsom Tavern is now “down the hill” from the Ladd-Gilman House and boasts a unique history of its own. In addition to where the New Hampshire Chapter of the Society of the Cincinnati was founded in 1783, Folsom Tavern welcomed George Washington in 1789 where he “partook in a collation” served by the Folsom family.

The Architecture Tour will take place from 10:30 am to 12 pm on Wednesday, May 29, Thursday, June 13, and Tuesday September 24.

Due to the historic nature of both buildings, they are not handicap accessible. Tickets are $10 for non-members and $5 for members.

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.

Museum program continues its ‘travels’

Making its way across the nation with stops in California, Minnesota and Utah to name just a few, the American Independence Museum’s Traveling Trunk program recently made its way back from Massachusetts.

“The traveling trunk made our American Revolution unit much more engaging and dynamic,” said Mike Ryan, teacher at Pollard Middle School in Needham, Massachusetts.

Expected to travel more than 25,000 miles throughout the United States in 2019, the Traveling Trunk program is presented by Service Credit Union.

“We believe in the program, because it provides important insight into the formation of our nation,” said Service Credit Union’s Wendy Beswick. “This is hands-on learning at its best.”

Featuring 70+ high quality replica items and colonial history curriculum to engage students of varying ages, the program reflects an emerging focus at the American Independence Museum on creating “an institution without walls.”

“If we cannot get people to the museum, we want to bring it to them,” said museum Executive Director Emma Bray. “Our partnership with Service Credit Union has provided us with the resources to expand the program and the educational branch of our mission.”

Noting he used nearly every object in the trunk in his classroom, Ryan said the program provided him with pedagogical flexibility.

“The copies of the Declaration of Independence were used so that each partnership was able to have their own,” he said. “I only have 4 facsimiles, so it was great that these additions allowed each student to have the document in front of them.”

He said the included uniforms were “fantastic.”

“Students used these throughout our unit and greatly appreciated them,” he added.

According to Beswick, such experiential learning programs are critical today, as many schools struggle with shrinking budgets.

“We are very pleased to be part of the program, which is expanding far beyond what any of us could have expected,” she said. “We believe an appreciation and understanding of American history is very important.”

In addition to continued financial support from Service Credit Union, the Traveling Trunk program was made possible with initial seed funding from the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation.

Founded in 1991 in downtown 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.

Volunteers help behind the scenes at American Independence Museum

With the 2019 season just around the proverbial corner–opening day is May 1–American Independence Museum staff are hard at work developing a full calendar of programs and events, but they are not alone.

“Volunteers work alongside staff in so many areas of our operation,” said Emma Bray, executive director. “We could not do what we do without their time and expertise.”

Some volunteers, such as Bill Jennison, work as tour guides.

“It is not everyday you get to come to an historic town and work within a 300-year-old building and interact with people and rare objects,” he said. “I consider it a privilege to come and work here.”

Rachel Passannante, collections and visitor services manager, said Jennison has additionally taken on the role of general handyman.

“Bill has been incredibly reliable,” she said. “His personality is infectious and he always makes the day enjoyable. He absolutely loves history, and I am glad we can be an outlet for him and other guides to share their knowledge and love of history.”

For Jennison, who lives in Exeter, there is no other place where he would want to spend his free time.

“Seeing the staff working at making this place run and it succeeding is great,” he said.“It’s a great environment with great people.”

Bray added, “Volunteers provide so much value to the museum. Great people like Bill help energize staff, too.”

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 to feature Civic Engagement theme in 2019

In recent years, the American Independence Museum has made an effort to develop programs and events that relate to a modern audience, which is reflected in its selection of Civic Engagement as its 2019 theme.

“What is civic engagement and what does that look like for someone in our community?” rhetorically noted Emma Bray, executive director at the museum. “In this current political climate, I cannot think of a more responsible or relevant question to ask ourselves.”

In addition to developing exhibitions and events throughout the year that touch on this theme, the museum will also partner with organizations and entities whose mission reflects this theme.

On Wednesday, January 30 at 7PM at the Congregational Church in Exeter, the museum and ‘We the People’ will co-host a free panel discussion, “Our Social Contract: Civic Engagement in a Modern Democracy.”

Featuring panelists from academia, secondary education, the media, new citizen support services, and voter information and advocacy, the discussion will explore many subjects that relate to civic engagement.The panel will be moderated by Wayne L’Esperance, director of the Center for Civic Engagement at New England College.

The panel is presented by ‘We the People,’ a free lecture and film series exploring issues that intersect with current events, ethics and religion. ‘We the People’ is co-sponsored by the Congregational, Episcopal and Unitarian Universalist churches of Exeter in association with Phillips Exeter Academy and Water Street Bookstore. 

“It is important we collaborate with others to promote and discuss this theme, which really hits at the heart of who we are as Americans,” added Bray.

For more information about We the People, visit, or call (603) 475-2143.

Founded in 1991 in downtown 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.

Museum takes visitors on a global journey in 2018

the American Independence Museum hosted its latest Lunch & Learn, entitled “Global Perspectives on the Revolution: The Exhibit Up-Close,” which took visitors on a global journey.

“The American Revolution was not just an isolated event in North America,” said Rachel Passannante, collections and visitor services manager. “It had worldwide implications.”

Presented in partnership with People’s United Bank as is the entire lecture series, the Lunch & Learn reflected the museum’s 2018 theme, termed “Global Perspectives on the Revolutionary War.” During this latest lecture, visitors had the opportunity to view this year’s special exhibit in the Ladd-Gilman House.

In conducting much of the research behind the exhibit, Passannante said she was excited to learn more about “the tangled web” of nations that took an interest in the Revolution. Some of these nations included France, Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation, Denmark, Spain and Russia. Even what is known as the Netherlands had a vested interest in the war.

“The Dutch were one of the few visible supporters of America’s fight for independence,” she said. “Known as the United Provinces at the time, they were the first to recognize America as a nation in 1776. They openly traded with America and sent thousands of ships carrying a variety of goods from their trading post on St. Eustatius in the West Indies.”

In helping frame the Revolution and its entire collection with a global context, Executive Director Emma Bray said the museum is able to demonstrate history’s relevance to discussions today.

“There is a context for everything we do as people and a nation,” she said. “Many of today’s themes–political or trade, for instance–have their roots in history that extend well beyond colonial history into Greece and further back than that…If we can better understand history, we can better understand ourselves today.”

The museum’s Lecture Series, which includes evening Tavern Talks and afternoon Lunch & Learns, is presented in partnership with People’s United Bank. Tavern Talks are additionally supported by a Humanities-To-Go grant from the NH Humanities Council.

The series is held in Folsom Tavern, 164 Water Street, Exeter, NH and is free and open to the public.
Founded in 1991, the American Independence Museum welcomes more than 5,500 visitors annually and distinguishes itself with educational school programs and events that make history fun and relevant.