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Mars Hill University Receives Grant Monies for Upgrades to the Rural Heritage Museum

Rural Heritage MuseumMars Hill University has received $36,000 in grant monies from the Marion Stedman Covington Foundation and the Glass Foundation for renovations to the lower level of the Rural Heritage Museum on the campus. The planned upgrades will allow the museum to store and prepare exhibits consistent with contemporary museum standards and provide opportunities for more exchange opportunities with other professional museums.

In October 2015, the Marion Stedman Covington Foundation of Greensboro, NC, gave the university $18,000 for renovation of the museum’s lower level in a matching grant. Earlier this month, The Glass Foundation of Asheville, NC, provided the match of $18,000.

The renovations are part of a long-range plan for the museum which began around ten years ago. In 2006, following damage from a major roof leak, the museum underwent a major renovation to restore the building. This phase I construction included a new roof, new interior finishes, HVAC, and lighting. The project was completed in 2013.

Phase II calls for a transformation of the lower level of the facility into a physically appropriate and professionally proper area to receive, prepare and store objects in the museum’s permanent collection and to receive and store objects on loan from other institutions or individuals.

Museum director Les Reker said: "The upgraded and modernized lower level of the building will allow the museum to store exhibit objects in a climate-controlled, secure environment in keeping with contemporary museum standards and the best professional practices, as outlined by the American Alliance of Museums. Maintaining those standards, then, will allow the museum to borrow from other museums around the country much more readily, vastly increasing the museum's educational value to the university and the community."

The Rural Heritage Museum is located in Montague Hall, on the upper quad of Mars Hill University. The building was constructed by local residents in 1918 from fieldstone to be a library for the institution. While the construction is intriguing from a historical point of view, it also presents some challenges, Reker said.

"A rock building has a tendency to hold moisture," Reker said. "So we have to mitigate that."

The building became the Rural Life Museum in the 1970’s. The name was changed to the Rural Heritage Museum in 2014. It is the only museum of any kind in Madison County and the only Museum in the state exclusively dedicated to Rural Appalachian Heritage. To date the museum has served over 110,000 visitors.

The Rural Heritage Museum is open every day except Monday, from 11 am – 5 pm. Currently the Rural Heritage Museum is exhibiting: How The West Was Won: Trains and the Transformation of Western North Carolina.

The Marion Stedman Covington Foundation, based in Greensboro, NC, promotes the field of historic preservation in North Carolina through financial support and leadership.
The Glass Foundation is a private family foundation based in Asheville, NC, and dedicated to making the region a center of high quality educational opportunity; helping to preserve a diverse array of natural resources; and by maintaining a rich cultural and historical heritage.