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Linking science, technology, engineering, art and math, STEAM is an integrated educational model in today’s secondary schools that leaves out history, which presents an opportunity for cultural institutions like the American Independence Museum.

“The subject of history is not a static one,” said museum Executive Director Emma Bray. “History is a subject that itself connects to economic, geographic, cultural and civic knowledge.”

With some schools removing history from certain grades due to budgetary constraints, Bray said institutions like the museum are able to provide educational value in unexpected ways.

“We have items in our collection, research documents and historical knowledge and resources that we can utilize to enhance education in the classroom,” she said. “That is why we developed the Traveling Trunk program.”

Developed in 2016 with initial seed funding from the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation, the program is designed for students of varying ages. Shipped in a trunk, the program contains 70+ high quality replica items and colonial history curriculum materials.

“It is hands-on, experiential education that directly reflects best practices in education today,” added Bray.

The program, however, comes with ongoing costs. The trunk is occasionally returned with some items missing and there are costs to ship it. In 2019, the trunk is expected to travel more than 15,000 miles with stops as far away as California.

“The program is supported by Service Credit Union, which has been with us since its beginning,” Bray said. “We could not offer this program at no charge to students without their support.”

Wendy Beswick, vice president of marketing at Service Credit Union, said the program is unique in that it “removes barriers.”

“We believe in the Traveling Trunk program, because it reaches many students who otherwise would not be able to access such an educational experience,” she said. “This is an investment with a great return.”

This return, said Bray, is measured by thousands of students.

“As schools continue to struggle with budgets, partnerships between the nonprofit and corporate sector–like what we have developed with Service Credit Union–are increasingly more important,” she said.

Founded in 1991 in downtown Exeter, NH, 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