Granite State of Mind, #67: American Independence Museum, Exeter
Founded in 1638, Exeter is one of New Hampshire's four oldest settlements, along with Portsmouth, Dover, and Hampton. And that's just the beginning of Exeter's prominent role in New Hampshire history, including a fourteen-year stint as capital during the Revolution. It's only fitting, then, that the Athens of New Hampshire has been the host of the American Independence Museum since 1991. The Museum is a non-profit, founded with the help of the Society of the Cincinnati to both celebrate the astounding history of independence and to promote modern civic engagement. Hard to top a mission statement like that.
The Museum is a great place to visit - among other things, they hold one of the 26 surviving Dunlap Broadsides, the original printings of the Declaration of Independence (this one found in the attic of the Ladd-Gilman House just thirty years ago). They've also got some original drafts of the US Constitution and a fascinating array of other Independence-era artifacts. But rather than a dusty repository, the Museum is a living thing, working with schools on dynamic historic programs and engaging the broader community through lecture series and the ever-growing American Independence Festival. As an aside, I love that the festival is held two weeks after July 4, commemorating the first reading of the Declaration in the town. Yeah, two weeks to get from Philadelphia to Exeter. Oh, there's also the Folsom Tavern on the Museum grounds, and the ongoing acknowledgement of the role played by taverns as the social networks of the time.
If you love history or independence (or beer), the American Independence Museum is worthy of a visit. And support. Check it out: https://independencemuseum.org/