Restoration work begins at American Independence Museum

After months of planning, major restoration work has begun at the American Independence Museum that will “transform its one acre campus,” according to Executive Director Emma Bray.

“It’s not just the aesthetics of our property, but some of the actual nuts and bolts of our Ladd-Gilman House,” she noted.

These “nuts and bolts” include concrete skirt removal around the Ladd-Gilman House (c.1721), repointing the foundation and replacement of rotten sills at its front.

“We will move to the drainage and re-grading portion of the work in August, weather-permitting,” said Bray, who said one outcome from this portion of the project will be quite noticeable.

“There will be a new path from Governors Lane and the brick patio of Ladd-Gilman House to Folsom Tavern [on Water Street],” she explained. “There will also be substantial improvements to the front yard between the caretaker’s cottage and gift shop entrance.”

That entire area, Bray noted, will be lowered to provide for a 6″ foundation reveal, which she described as “best practice in historic house preservation.” 

“Currently, our sill line for that portion of the house sits below grade, which contributes to our issues of water in the basement and rot for those clapboards below grade,” she said. “The front yard space will also be lowered, yard drains installed and entry pathways re-laid.”

In addition to $80,000 grant from the NH Land and Community Heritage Investment Program (LCHIP), the project is funded by the Lewis Family Foundation, Samuel P. Hunt Foundation, William W. Treat Foundation, and private donors.

“We received a tremendous amount of support for this project, which is critical for the museum’s future and our ability to best care for our collection,” she said.

The museum’s collection includes one of only 26 surviving copies of the Dunlap Broadside of the Declaration of Independence and two rare drafts of the U.S. Constitution.

According to Bray, the project began in mid July with the removal of several trees, one of which included a dying ash located adjacent to People’s United Bank staff parking lot. 

“The removal of this and other trees were important for many reasons, but done so only after careful consideration and consultation,” said Bray.

In looking ahead, Ozzie Ayscue, president of the museum’s Board of Governors, said the project “puts a literal foundation under the 1721 Ladd-Gilman House and American Independence Museum collection.”

“We feel like we have a solid new platform for launching diverse experiential programs for an expanding community,” he said.

Bray agreed and added, “We are but stewards of this property, so it is very gratifying to prepare for the future, especially as we look to the Ladd-Gilman’s 300th anniversary in 2021.”

Even with the financial support received so far, Bray said it is clear more funding will be needed to successfully accomplish all aspects of the project.

“It is important we take this opportunity to do all we can right now to ensure the integrity of the Ladd-Gilman House and our collection, so future generations may enjoy it far into the future,” she added. “This is an exciting moment for the museum and the Town of Exeter.”

American Independence Museum to host ‘Unearthed at the AIM’

Presented by People’s United Bank, ‘Unearthed at the AIM’ on Wednesday, June 26 at 12 noon is the next free Lunch and Learn event in the 2019 Lecture Series at the American Independence Museum.

According to museum Executive Director Emma Bray, this talk will be particularly meaningful, as guests will be able to learn about some of the findings of a recent archaeological project outside the Ladd-Gilman House (c. 1721).

“We are currently engaged in a project that will include perimeter excavation and regrading outside the Ladd-Gilman House, foundation repointing and repair of a modern stone retaining wall,” she said. “We are also restoring rotten sills and adding storm doors…Archaeology, though, was the first step, and some interesting things were found.”

The project is made possible from an $80,000 grant award from New Hampshire’s Land and Community Heritage Investment Program (LCHIP) and private funders, including Samuel P. Hunt Foundation, William W. Treat Foundation, Lewis Family Foundation and Society of the Cincinnati in the State of New Hampshire.

“We have been fortunate to receive a groundswell of support for this project, which will take care of many issues around and in the Ladd-Gilman House that jeopardize some items in our collection,” added Bray.

At ‘Unearthed at the AIM,’ Jesse Cofelice, principal investigator at Independent Archaeological Consulting will discuss what has been found outside the museum and in other projects around the region.

“This is a chance to meet an archaeologist that is literally digging through history — it really will be quite fascinating,” said Victoria Su, who organizes the 2019 Lecture Series. “This is a great way to spend your lunch hour and learn something, too.”

‘Unearthed at the AIM’ will take place on Wednesday, June 26 at 12pm.

Presented by People’s United Bank, there is no charge to attend any event in the 2019 Lecture Series and attendees are welcome to bring their own lunch.

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.

American Independence Museum receives grant to enhance infrastructure

While charged with preserving 300 year-old items, staff at the American Independence Museum would prefer to not use a development database that feels nearly as old, which underscores the importance of a recently awarded $2,500 grant.

Madelaine G. von Weber Trust awarded the grant to the museum, which will now be able to store a variety of different data points as well as manage, execute and track communications with stakeholders.

According to museum Executive Director Emma Bray, the grant provides for more than just a place into which staff may input data.

“This grant will enable us to analyze data, interpret it, and make business decisions as a result of it,” she said. “We are so thankful that Madelaine G. von Weber Trust saw the merits of our proposal and made this investment.”

Bray said the grant introduces cloud-based technology to staff, which is an important step in the museum’s continued advancement as a sustainable business entity.

“In order to preserve history, we require first class tools and technology,” she said. “I am very enthusiastic that the outcomes from this grant will help us continue to chart a new course for the museum. We want to be active community members, and this grant gives us the tools we need to ensure we can make better decisions and build better relationships.”

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 receives $10,000 grant award

Educating visitors of all ages is one of the most important objectives at the American Independence Museum and one that recently received a major boost with a $10,000 grant from the Fullwood Foundation.

The grant award will enable the museum to purchase and incorporate mechanical physical interactives into three of its eight exhibit rooms. Part of the funds may also be used to purchase tactile, hands-on reproduction objects.
antique furniture
According to museum Executive Director Emma Bray, the grant provides an opportunity for the museum to follow in the footsteps of similarly focused cultural institutions.

“Hands-on learning is not a catch-phrase,” she explained. “It’s how kids and many adults learn best, and we need to build spaces in our museum to allow for that. We are so thankful that the Fullwood Foundation shares our vision and has made such a critically important investment at such a perfect time for us.”

Bray said now is a particularly important time, because the museum is in the middle of a 5-year strategic plan with a focus on elevating its program offerings and enter new educational areas.

“The museum has a role in promoting 21st Century Learning Skills,” she said. “We can be relevant in today’s world, but we need the right tools. This grant puts them right in our hands.”

The timeline for the grant is approximately 9 months, which coincides with the museum’s opening for the 2019 season. Expressing excitement at the grant’s potential to affect its education objectives, Bray said there is also “a global theme” at play.

“We want to serve as a hub for downtown Exeter where people can gather, relax and feel at home here,” she said. “The more we can transform both the space inside our walls and outside them, the better it is for the profile of this vibrant town.”

She cited collaborations as instrumental to this vision.

“We do not work alone, which makes the partnerships we have with grant funders, corporate partners and individual donors so important,” she said. “We hope others will see Fullwood Foundation’s support of our operations and also want to invest in our mission to preserve our shared colonial history.”

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.

“American Independence Museum awarded grant”

In support of the 26th American Independence Festival on July 16 in Exeter, the American Independence Museum has been awarded $1,800 from the New Hampshire State Council on the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts. Celebrating the rich history and tradition of Exeter, which served as capital of NH during the Revolutionary War, the Festival has become well known for its colonial demonstrations.

“With continued funding from the New Hampshire State Council on the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts, our colonial artisans village has become a Festival highlight every year,” said Museum Executive Director Julie Williams. “We greatly appreciate their belief in our Festival and its unique role in promoting traditional arts.”

Ginnie Lupi, director at the New Hampshire State Council on the Arts, said they are proud to support the American Independence Festival.

“The Festival and its Artisan Village engage residents and visitors with traditional arts and history, contribute to the Seacoast region’s reputation as a cultural hub, and strengthen the economy by bringing people to downtown Exeter,” she said.

Featuring historic battle re-enactments, children’s activities, crafts, live music, food from local vendors and more, the Festival annually attracts more than 4,000 people, many of whom come from as far as Boston.

Comprising the Ladd-Gilman House (c. 1721) and Folsom Tavern (c.1775) on more than one acre of landscaped property, the Museum hosts public and educational programs and lectures, colonial artisan demonstrations, guided tours, and special events. The Museum is also part of the “Experience New Hampshire Heritage: The Portsmouth to Plymouth Museum Trail.”

To learn more about The Trail, visit nhmuseumtrail.org.