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.”