LIBRARY LOOKOUT COLUMN: Stanly County Museum had a productive year

Greetings! I am the Stanly County Museum firector and guest writing this month’s Library Lookout article.

Why is the museum director writing the Library Lookout, you may ask?

Megan Sullivan

Well, the museum is a branch of the county library and provides numerous resources for the county.

The museum has been in existence in some form since the 1970s and owns thousands of artifacts and documents. Our collection reveals, among other things, that the most common crime in the county in 1851 was not paying a debt (with one debt measured out in hog meat); that children spitting on the floor and smoking pipes in the classroom were so prevalent, it actually had to be banned; and in 1897, the county tax total for the year was $1.50.

Our collection also contains information at a national level, including the Inauguration Program of President Taft in 1909, and a handwritten copy from a Confederate soldier of Lee’s letter of surrender at Appomattox courthouse.

Two of the most popular artifacts in our collection are the Victorian hair wreath (made from the hair of numerous dead family members) and the mysterious gravestone that was found with a skeleton when the old Stanly County Courthouse was demolished in 1972.

With so many artifacts and documents housed here, the museum usually changes exhibits about three times a year. This year is a little different, as our current exhibit was created in partnership with the Smithsonian (the largest museum in the world, if you didn’t know). The exhibit, “Working 9 to 5; Making a Living in Stanly County,” is on display until the summer of 2023.

In this digital age, museums have had to reevaluate their purpose to best reach and serve their community, and the county museum is no exception.

We worked very hard in 2022 to broaden our mission besides being the steward of county history.

For the grand opening of our exhibit with the Smithsonian, we hosted a Big Truck Day. We partnered with the Stanly County Community College and had them bring one of their excavator simulators to the museum. Reed Gold Mine visited the museum and offered free panning to our visitors. In October, we turned the museum into a Haunted House.

We have also created hands-on programming for our field trips. Besides a tour of our current exhibit, we offer our Native American STEM program, where the students get hands-on interaction with authentic Native American artifacts and then build and erupt their own “volcanoes” (one of my favorite memories of this job is being recognized in public years later by teens who remembered doing this activity as children).

Our field trips also include touring two house museums, where the students love trying out our reproduction rope bed and hearing stories about Stanly County’s one-legged sheriff, Isaiah Snuggs.

We closed out 2022 with a partnership with the Albemarle Sweet Shop. During the first Saturday in December, visitors were able to decorate their own clown cookies.

The hustle and bustle of this year was worth it, with the museum recording its highest visitor numbers yet.

For 2023, we hope to do more of the same and welcome any suggestions from the community on what they want their county museum to look like as we grow.

Megan Sullivan is the director of the Stanly County Museum.