Museum attracts National attention and has hosted 20,000+ visitors from 48 states and 26 countries
Since its October 2016 opening in the lobby of the former Aethelwold Hotel, the Veterans History Museum of the Carolinas has hosted 20,000+ visitors from 48 states and 26 countries. After a three-month exhibition in the Transylvania Heritage Museum in early 2017, the museum moved to 21 East Main Street (beside the county courthouse) where it has grown by every measure imaginable. The museum’s open days, programs, media presence, and activities have expanded to draw in more visitors to Transylvania County and give hikers, bikers, kayakers, and sightseers a reason to stay longer. From March – July 2022, 1,395 people visited the museum. School groups, Jr. R.O.T.C. groups, and Scout groups are an important part of this number.
National & International Recognition Honoring Veterans
Greater notice from around the country: Smithsonian Magazine recently quoted one of the museum website’s articles. A Vietnam veterans’ group based in Chico, California asked how they might watch the guest speaker program “Talking About Vietnam” online. Programs Manager Greg Ehr now streams all programs onto the museum’s Facebook page. Social Media Manager Ken Corn uploads these programs to the museum’s YouTube channel and website manager Katy Rosenberg posts the programs on the site’s “Personal History” and “News” pages as permanent attractions for web traffic.
Nine local World War II veterans have attended three gatherings during the last nine months, where they were honored by being introduced to audiences, having private meals with authors of WWII books, sharing their stories with grateful citizens, and receiving handmade gifts by museum volunteers.
Two of these veterans were given expense-paid trips to the locations in Europe where they served and fought during the war. D-Day veteran George Sarros traveled back to Normandy Beach. Ed Cottrell traveled twice to St. Tron, Belgium, where he flew 65 missions as a fighter pilot in the Battle of the Bulge. These trips were made possible by museum publicity in the online version of the Transylvania Times and by nationally-known guest speakers who met these veterans at museum events.
Six Korean War veterans were honored in July with a family & friends get-together at Brevard’s American Legion Lounge.
Expanded Schedule & New Exhibits
The museum is now open five days per week, adding Tuesdays to its former Wednesday – Saturday schedule. New exhibits include a 1943 WWII Willys Jeep, a 1942 Harley-Davidson (driven by Army MPs in Europe), and a WWI rifle. A 14-foot Soviet missile will be arriving this week. If you’ve visited before, it’s a perfect time to come again to see what’s new!
Our exhibit, “Women in the Military” has a fresh new look now, with the addition of lighted display cases showing unique artifacts complementing the many portraits of women in uniform on the wall. The flight suit of Vietnam War “Phantom” Pilot Brig. Gen. Robert L. McCann is now proudly displayed in the window facing Main Street—an extra exhibit you can enjoy from the grassy yard next to the gazebo.
Over 300 gold plaques honoring both veterans and active service members now grace the museum’s Honor Wall. This honored place in the entry and main hallway provides a permanent display of service members’ names, service branches, dates served, and special details of their service. Many families make a special ceremony of viewing their family members’ plaques together.
Veterans’ Discussion Group & Free History Programs
Veterans Coffee & Conversation is a discussion group for veterans only, with the purpose of sharing stories and experiences, whether combat or non-combat. All veterans and service members are welcome. On the first Tuesday of each month, Vietnam veteran Phil Mayrand leads these meetings at Brevard’s VFW post. For more information, please call him at 941-275-5430 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Guest Speaker Programs
The museum now has Guest Speaker programs scheduled throughout 2022—a mix of area veterans telling their stories and nationally-known visiting authors with book-signings. An upcoming program in October is co-sponsored with the History Department of Brevard College. Here’s a sample of this year’s programs:
- – May 18: “Target Tokyo: Jimmy Doolittle and the Raid That Avenged Pearl Harbor,” a program by James Scott, author and Pulitzer Prize finalist (102 people attended this program and 40 attended the book-signing)
- – June 3: “Stalin’s War: A New Look at WWII,” by Dr. Sean McMeekin, nationally-known author of eight books on history
- – July 14: “Ukraine Crisis 2022: Origins, Impact, and Challenges for the West,” presented by Col F.K. Jeschonnek, German Army (Ret.). This program was attended by 118 people, many from outside Transylvania County.
- – July 28: “The Battle of Bunker Hill,” presented by Jeff Brewer, descendant of a participant in the Battle of Bunker Hill and member of Sons of the American Revolution
- – August 26: “My U2 Years: Dancing with the Dragon Lady,” presented by Col. Richard “Duke” Woodhull, U.S. Air Force (Ret.)
- – September 8: “Winning the European Skies of WWII,” presented by Lt. Col. Bob Wilkerson, U.S. Air Force (Ret.)
- – October 20: “Loyal Forces: The American Animals of World War II,” by Toni Kiser, author of the book by the same name. A Brevard College graduate, Kiser is Director of Collections Management of the National WWII Museum in New Orleans.
- – November 2: “Black Snow: Curtis LeMay, the Firebombing of Tokyo, and the Road to the Atom Bomb,” a program on the book by the same name, by James Scott, author and Pulitzer Prize finalist
These programs are now live-streamed on the museum’s Facebook page and the videos are available for viewing on the museum website. To receive email notifications about all museum events, please email your request to email@example.com. The museum’s weekly newsletter now has 1675 subscribers.
Museum Website, Video Docent Program in the Works, & Media
In January through April of 2022, 6560 people visited the museum’s website, a 33% increase from the same months last year. The number one search was “museums near me.” People are looking for museums and they are finding one in Brevard at theveteransmuseum.org. Our website provides the visitor with photographs and exhibit descriptions to give them a taste of what they can experience when they come here.
Coming this fall: an exciting educational program funded by North Carolina Humanities and local partners: “Through Their Eyes.” It will portray the history of America during the wars from WWI through the War on Terror. Each gallery will have its own Ken Burns-style five-minute video for watching either on the website or in-person in the museum.
In the last year, museum representatives have appeared on TV in Knoxville, Asheville, Greenville, and Charlotte, to spread the word about the museum to wider audiences throughout the region.
The museum’s four social media accounts have 3366 followers as of this writing. Many of these followers share. One recent story on Facebook reached 3100 people.
One business sponsor, Egolf Motors, has made several videos giving brief tours of different galleries in the museum, which are posted on Egolf’s social media. These are creating extra visitors to the museum’s social media. This sponsor is helping in more ways than one! Please check out:
Military History Library
Judge Jack Matthews donated his library of hundreds of military volumes and biographies to create the museum’s military history library. With this generous beginning, many more have been donated; it now even includes a children’s section. Members of the public are welcome to peruse the shelves of books.
Expanded Gift Shop
Browse the museum’s newly-stocked gift shop which includes museum logo T-shirts, polo shirts, and ball caps. Three original books chronicling the stories of local WWII, Korean War, and Vietnam War veterans are on sale. You might know some of these neighbors who told their stories for these books. All proceeds go to support the museum’s mission: Honor, Educate, Preserve.
Community Business Sponsorships
Since April 2022, five Transylvania County businesses have joined the museum’s new Business Sponsorship program. The museum now proudly displays their logos on the museum website, e-newsletters, and prominently at our speaker programs. We thank Egolf Motors, O.P. Taylor’s, The Cherry Tree, Transylvania Vocational Services, and Harris Ace Hardware for being first, and welcome more sponsors. Pease contact Mike McCarthy at firstname.lastname@example.org or 828-506-6671 for details on how to become part of our ever-expanding work to honor America’s veterans.
During the last year, many other businesses and non-profits donated funds, supplies for exhibits, or gift cards for raffles: Transylvania Vocational Services (TVS), Broad Street Wines, O.P. Taylor’s, Ingles Markets, Falls Landing, Lowe’s, Food Matters, Diamond Rush Jewelers, Walmart, Tractor Supply, White Squirrel Shoppe, Dragonfly Gallery, Sully’s Steamers, Cup & Saucer, Mantiques, Dugan’s Pub, Ecusta Brewing Company, Falls Landing, The Cherry Tree, The UPS Store, Harris Ace Hardware, Elements Spa, Bill Bailey Fitness Training, Theophilus, Sully’s Steamers, United Community Bank, Brevard Brewing Company, American Legion Auxiliary, Sacred Heart Ladies Guild, The Cabinet Shoppe, Redrocket Nonprofits, MOAA (Military Officers Association of America) and The December 1st Charitable Trust.
The museum continues to thrive in large part from the support of local grantors such as Lake Toxaway Charities, Pisgah Forest Rotary, Transylvania County, and North Carolina Humanities.
The museum is fortunate to now have the largest number of volunteer Pathfinders (docents) in its 5+ year history. They work shifts of either 11am -1pm or 1pm -3pm. Some are veterans with stories to tell and some are non-veterans who are volunteering to honor veterans. All have ears to listen to your stories and give you a warm welcome. The museum tours are self-guided, so volunteers need not be experts. For more information, please contact Carl Newman at 828-877-5924 or email@example.com
In addition to these Pathfinders, the museum now needs help with mailings, addressing envelopes, special events (food and logistics), office administration & management, publications, PR (writing), business sponsorships, computer skills, and bookkeeping. Please call 828-884-2141 and we’ll get the appropriate person to speak with you to learn more about your interests.
Come on in Tue. – Sat., 11:00 AM to 3:00 PM and look around. We look forward to showing you our new exhibits. As always, admission is FREE. The Veterans History Museum of the Carolinas is located at 21 East Main Street in Brevard (next to the courthouse).
Article by Janis Allen