On Sept. 29, three neighboring museums will open their doors for Museum Day Live!, a special nationwide event in which hundreds of venues across the country will honor a universal museum ticket sponsored by the Smithsonian Magazine.
Museum Day is held each year in the spirit of the Smithsonian Museums, which offer free admission daily.
Tickets claimed through the Smithsonian website include admission to the historic Hamlet Depot & Museums, the Rankin Museum of American Heritage in Ellerbe and the Town Creek Indian Mound in Mount Gilead. Located within miles of each other, visitors can easily travel to all three museums on a day trip.
The Hamlet Depot, built in 1900 as the flagship of the Seaboard Railroad, functions as both a train depot and a museum dedicated to the town’s history as the “Hub of the Seaboard.” The museum houses the Tornado Locomotive, N.C.’s first steam engine, and is said to be the most photographed train station on the east coast.
According to Museum Director Miranda Chavis, “We will be celebrating all weekend. On Friday (Sept. 28), we’re hosting a special presentation, along with Operation Lifesaver, on Hamlet’s most notorious train wrecks and modern train safety.”
Although admission to the Depot is already free, Chavis said the museum plans to participate in Museum Day Live! next Saturday.
“We loved the idea of participating in the spirit of the event and encouraging people to come out and see their local history and their local cultural institutions, because it’s really important that people be aware of that … The Depot will be open, and we’ll have the downstairs model railroad exhibit open. We also just renovated the railroad exhibit in the Tornado building.”
Visitors will also be able to enjoy the rich history of the Depot, located at 2 W. Main St. in Hamlet, by hearing from some of the knowledgeable volunteers that will be available during the day. The Depot will be open from 1 to 5 p.m. on Sept. 29.
Just down the road at the Rankin Museum of American Heritage, the Museum Day ticket will allow access to several displays of local and national history.
The Rankin museum has been named one of the top 10 in the state.
“We’re extending our hours that day,” said Gail Benson, museum curator. “We’ll be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and the museum will be open, free of charge, to those who have a ticket that they’ve pulled off the Internet. It’s a self-guided tour. We have a natural history section, a heritage section with southern history, North Carolina history and local history, and then we have a native American room with exhibits from tribes all over North and South America. We may even run a film in our auditorium … We really are excited. We’ve participated in it for three or four years now.”
The Rankin Museum is located at 131 W. Church St. in Ellerbe.
Town Creek Indian Mound, just minutes from Ellerbe, is North Carolina’s only state historic site dedicated to American Indian heritage. The museum offers archaeological and historic glimpses into pre-Columbian life in the Piedmont. Concentrating on the Pee Dee Culture, 1000 – 1400 AD, Town Creek is considered one of the most unique destinations in the state.
Site manager Rich Thompson said he was looking forward to the event.
“Apart from a regular visit to the site, there will be some other activities going on,” Thompson said. “We’re having an event called Dogs Day. We’re encouraging folks to come out to the site and bring their family pet to remind them we are a dog friendly site … We’re tying it into the story of Town Creek, with what’s called the Carolina Dog. It’s believed that the Carolina Dog was the first dog to come into the Americas with the first humans at least 10,000 years ago, so we’re going to have an organization called the Carolina Dog Rescue and Protection Program come out, and they’re trying to preserve this rare species, so they’ll be here with information about the dog and have examples of the animals.
“We’ll start the day at 9 a.m. with our first annual K9 5K, which is basically a fun run for owners and their pets if they want to run with their dogs. We have a first, second and third place prize for the dogs and the humans that come across the line. We’ll have some dog vendor booths set up out there, the local Humane Society will be here … it will just be an outdoor day of fun and relaxation.”
While visitors are there, they can check out the ceremonial mound, burial house and the nature trail. Town Creek Indian Mound is located at 509 Town Creek Mound Road in Mount Gilead and will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
For the complete list of participating museums and to register for free Museum Day tickets, visit www.smithsonianmag.com/museumday.
— Staff Writer Mallory Brown can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 18, or by email at email@example.com.