By RICK CURL
Of The Record Staff
In case you haven’t noticed, the Dunn Area History Museum has found a new home at 201 E. Broad St. — and come Friday you can officially see it for yourself.
The museum will finally open its doors at 11 a.m. when the staff and friends of the museum welcome everyone with a ribbon cutting and celebration.
Once inside, visitors will find something museum Vice President Mark Johnson is proud to display.
“It’s been a labor of love and taken a lot of work, a lot of time and a lot of effort,” Mr. Johnson said. “We’ve had a lot of wonderful people helping us, a lot of good donations from people and I’m looking forward to Friday so we can get this thing open to the public.”
One week before the grand opening, Mr. Johnson received the 1,000th piece to the museum’s inventory of memorabilia. “Probably half of those or a little better will be on display,” he said. “We’ve got some in reserve so we can rotate the displays from time to time. So, when you come in you won’t see the same thing every time. It will be months between rotations, but we do have enough to continue putting them out.”
When you do make your first or 100th visit, you’re be sure to find something to grab your interest. Whether you are into fashion, military history, weapons, toys or photos you will find something.
To make it all the more intriguing, all of the pieces have a direct connection to Dunn. None of the items have been purchased from other states or through auction. They were all donated by local residents who are willing to share a piece of their own history with their neighbors.
“It’s all local stuff, local people, local artifacts,” Mr. Johnson said. “We’ve got everything from a fish that’s been caught by somebody from Dunn to a fish trap and go-karts, antique toys and lots of pictures from local people. Just a large assortment of artifacts from Dunn’s past.”
One display Mr. Johnson is extremely glad to have in the museum and is extremely proud and appreciative of is the Native American display and a large military inventory as well.
“One of the things we have that should draw attention is our Native American display because they were here long before we were and they deserve that respect,” he said. “We also have a real good assortment of military items on display and all of them are from native Dunn people.”
The generosity of the people who have offered and provided items for display has been nothing short of surprising and overwhelming for Mr. Johnson and the staff of the facility that includes President Bobby Carr and Manager Christy Moore.
They have been the benefactors of many kind and willing residents who have found it far greater to share their history than keep it hidden in their closets, garages, basements and storage rooms.
“It’s amazing to me the people that come and tell me they’ve got something in their closet or attic and they’d like to bring it in and let us put it on display,” he said. “To have people dig out their family heirlooms and dig them out to give them to us or loan them to us, it’s just been amazing how generous people can be.”
Mr. Johnson said the goal of the museum is to try and stay at least 50 years in the past with all artifacts and visitors will be hard pressed to find anything new once they walk through the front doors.
“We’ve been able to cover a lot of distance with a lot of different artifacts from a lot of different periods from the Civil War to Vietnam,” he said. “We’d like to have stuff further back than that, but you can’t put out what you don’t have. If the public will loan it to us or give it to us we’ll put it out.”
There were plenty of challenges along the way, not the least of which was finding a new location. The old museum was located along North Ellis Avenue, so finding a location in the historic part of Dunn was a natural desire — one that took a while, but came to fruition thanks to Dunn Mayor Oscar Harris.
“It was extremely big to us because our building committee canvassed this end of Dunn looking for a home,” Mr. Johnson said. “This is a perfect spot, downtown historic Dunn. So it meant a lot for the museum to be on this corner. And for Oscar to be that generous we appreciate it very much and the citizens of Dunn should appreciate it, too.”
While getting the museum up and running has been the primary focus for the several years it’s been in the works, there are still things with a little time — and more importantly funding — the museum staff would like to accomplish.
They include adding lighting, electronic, sound and other elements to the display cases.
“We would like to have some electronic devices that will allow us to modernize some of our displays,” he said. “But there again, it goes to being able to afford it.”
The grand opening ceremony is set to begin at 11 a.m. and will include speeches from Mayor Harris, members of the museum staff followed by a ribbon cutting and then opening the doors.
“They should expect to see some unusual items they won’t get to see anywhere else,” Mr. Johnson said.