Mebane Historical Museum Adapts and Thrives | Culture & Leisure


This year and last year, the Mebane Historical Museum was forced to cancel the ever-popular July 4th Parade, but the Mebanites have a variety of museum-hosted events to look forward to later this summer and to the fall.

The Mebane Historical Museum closed in March 2020 and reopened later last year in October, largely because it was able to control the number of visitors entering the museum, said executive director Traci Davenport.

“We have requested (via social media, our website) that groups of more than 10 people should book in advance so that we can accommodate them safely,” she said. “We were able to get people between the gallery upstairs and the lower level when needed. ”

In fact, and perhaps surprisingly, the pandemic has been an extremely busy time for the museum, at least until around January 2021.

“We had an overflow of artifacts coming up, I think people stayed home and cleaned out their closets and attics, and people died,” Davenport said. “And, when people die, we get artifacts. So we had a lot of work to do in the first few months.

In addition, the museum made sure that the students, who were in distance learning, would still have access to the exhibits by scanning them and posting them online during the months when the museum is closed. High school students could also use the research resources provided by the museum during the pandemic.

The pandemic has also helped the museum in another way. Normally, Davenport said, they will have one intern at a time, often an undergraduate or graduate student studying museum studies or history.

But, currently, the Mebane Historical Museum employs four interns, which has proven to be extremely useful given the activity last year for the museum and its small staff.

On the flip side, the pandemic presented the museum with challenges and tough decisions – how to make the July 4th parade this year one of the favorite events for the public and the museum.

One of the basics of the annual parade is that you don’t have to spend the money to have a good time, Davenport said, and given the economics of small businesses around Mebane, the museum did not feel comfortable asking for donations to pay. for parade expenses.

“To our mind, it seemed really callous and stupid enough to go out and start knocking on the doors of our community partners with our hands outstretched when they are in as much pain as everyone else,” Davenport said. “It didn’t sound like a good idea. “

Davenport added that the parade could have happened, but it wouldn’t have been the same.

“By talking to the city, we could have come up with a very watered down version, but I didn’t want to disappoint the 2,000 people who came to love this event,” she said. “So we thought it was just a better idea to wait until everyone could participate… The whole event would have been, really, just a shadow of itself and I think that would have made it people more sad than happy. “

The museum plans to host the parade again in 2022, but in the meantime it has a variety of new artifacts and upcoming events to check out. And they are in desperate need of organizing events and fundraisers because, as a nonprofit, they have not been able to raise funds throughout the pandemic.

Makers of Modern Mebane is an annual exhibition in partnership with the city in which three or four Mebanites – living or dead – are chosen to highlight their contributions to making the city of Mebane what it is today. This event is tentatively scheduled for some time in September.

They are also working on the erection of a statue of world famous fiddler Joe Thompson on the US 70.

The museum also continued its monthly programs, which meet on the ground floor of the museum on the third Sunday or Monday of each month.

However, again this year, many events organized by the museum, such as the historic house tour, for example – will not take place. So Davenport said the museum has something else planned.

“We are writing a book,” she said. “The museum has a history of promoting books written by local historians…[and] we are convinced that we are going to be able to do a good job with this one and it is a book on the history of the residences of Mebane.

Davenport said that, given that they had been touring historic homes for 11 years, they had collected detailed information about the history of more than 80 homes in Mebane. Many of them will be featured in the book. More information about the book will be reported as it is learned.

The Mebane Historical Museum only has two full-time staff members, a surprising fact considering how much they do at the museum and throughout the city.

Davenport said she was so excited for museum events to return very soon, and proud of how the museum weathered the pandemic with limited resources and workers.

“We are a small museum that offers a full museum service and experience; we’re a collection museum, so we have collection management that has to be done, which takes a lot of time and a lot of energy, ”Davenport said. “We have two staff members so it’s amazing we did what we did. I’ll be the first to brag about this, we produce our crapload of content for the museum, for our websites, for our exhibits, for whatever we publish, and we’ve managed to do that over and over again with just two people.

More information about the museum and its events is available on the Mebane Historical Museum website and Facebook page.

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Patrick F. Williams