Home Local News Rankin Museum set to host Revolution exhibit following Rockingham library denial

Rankin Museum set to host Revolution exhibit following Rockingham library denial

ROCKINGHAM — A traveling exhibit on the Revolutionary War is coming to Richmond County, but not where initially intended.

The American Revolution Experience Traveling Exhibit is scheduled to be in Richmond County early next year, according to Melissa Wall, regent of the Gen. Henry William Harrington Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution.

The pop-up exhibit is a collaboration between the DAR and the American Battlefield Trust and is slated to “travel to scores of libraries, historical societies and museums through 2025, introducing visitors to a cast of historical characters with diverse experiences throughout the conflict and the places they visited on their journey,” reads the website battlefields.org.

The description goes on to read: “This innovative pop-up exhibition includes display panels and interactive digital kiosks that use storytelling, illustration, technology and unique artifacts and primary accounts to connect modern audiences with the people and places that shaped the birth of our nation.”

Wall told the RO that the traveling exhibit is “highly sought out.”

“At the time that I received confirmation that the (chapter) had been chosen to host, there were 400 names on the waitlist,” Wall said. “Time was of the essence as not to miss out on the opportunity to bring the award-winning exhibit to the citizens of Richmond County.

“Per the coordinating representative at Battlefield Trust, the exhibit has not been in North Carolina as of yet,” Wall continued. “It is exciting that Richmond County may be hosting it for the first time in the state.”

Tour dates and locations listed on the website show a variety of museums and libraries across the country, including libraries in: Wichita and Abilene, Kansas; Columbus, Ohio; and Fort Wayne, Indiana.

“The Thomas Leath Memorial Library was initially chosen by a vote from the (chapter) board due to its central location in the county, open parking for school buses, and availability for Richmond County residents,” Wall said in an email to the RO on May 31.

However, Wall added that “negotiations fell through.“

“I will say that the staff that I spoke with was very helpful and excited for the possibility of hosting such an event,” Wall said. “The decision came from higher up.”

The news came to the public’s attention Thursday evening through Rockingham Mayor John Hutchinson’s office-related Facebook page. The mayor said he had seen the denial letter from the library director.

“I am disappointed the Thomas Leath Memorial-Library turned down the chance to host a traveling Revolutionary War History exhibit for fear it might be offensive to patrons. The Revolutionary War,” the mayor said in a post. “This, without having seen the exhibit.”

Nearly all of those commenting on the mayor’s post shared in his disappointment, with some sarcastic remarks about offending “tories” and “red coats.”


Bonita Collins replied to Mayor Hutchinson’s post, saying the exhibit was turned down “because there was a contract to sign that stated the library will be responsible for theft or damage and would have to carry insurance to have the exhibit at the library.”

“The library does not have the money to cover the $24,000 cost including the responsibility if someone damages or steals the exhibit,” Collins added.

However, Sharon Hutchinson — the mayor’s wife who is a member of both the DAR and the library board — rebutted, saying there was no mention of insurance in the denial email, only that the exhibit may be offensive. She also said the library board was not contacted until after the decision was made.

The mayor commented that he had reviewed the contract and did not know where the $24,000 figure came from.

The RO sent a public records request for the referenced emails to the email address listed on the Leath Memorial Library page on the Sandhill Regional Library System website on Friday afternoon. There was no response by the time of this writing.

Sharon Hutchinson also addressed the insurance issue in several comments.

“The Battleground Trust verified that when this exhibit is sponsored by a local DAR chapter, an additional insurance report is not needed,” Sharon Hutchinson said in response to Collins. “The costs are picked up by the National DAR society. We sought verification of that for each of our potential venues, because the contract was detailed and specific about the care, handling, and monitoring of the exhibit.”

Wall said in a subsequent email that she and Brett Webb, president of the Rankin Museum of American Heritage Board of Directors, entered into a tentative agreement — pending approval from The Battlefield Trust — to host the exhibit at the museum in Ellerbe.

“I do hope that we can move past this, learn from this experience and work together in future events,” Wall said regarding the library debacle. “After all, Constitution Week is in September and the library has always allowed us to put up displays in celebration.”