News & Events

"How the West Was Won" Wins Silver

Les Reker Museum Award
Les Reker (left), director of the Rural Heritage Museum at Mars Hill University, receives a silver award from David Butler, president of the Southeastern Museums Conference

Mars Hill University's Rural Heritage Museum was honored this week for a recent exhibit. The exhibit, "How the West Was Won: Trains and the Transformation of Western North Carolina," took the silver position in the Awards of Excellence from the Southeastern Museums Conference. The award came in the category of exhibits under $25,000. The award was presented October 12, 2016, during the conference's annual meeting in Charlotte.

Museum director Les Reker said the award is an incredible tribute. "I am very grateful to my professional museum team, Mars Hill alumni Steve Hill and Ryan Phillips, and especially to Ray Rapp, for all their work in bringing about this very important exhibition." Rapp, a retired Mars Hill University dean and professor and former state legislator, curated the exhibit.

Mars Hill University President Dan Lunsford called the award a "recognition of the uniqueness of the exhibits, their presentation, and the strong community partnerships" the museum staff has built in the region.

Museum Train Exhibit
(l-r) Ray Rapp, former NC Rep. Phil Haire; Les Reker at the entrance display of the "How the West Was Won" exhibit, fall 2015

"How the West Was Won" was on display at the Rural Heritage Museum from June 2015 through January 2016. It later was displayed in exhibitions in McDowell and Polk counties in North Carolina, and is scheduled for a year-long run at the North Carolina Transportation Museum beginning in February 2017.

The Southeastern Museums Conference is the major regional networking organization for museums and their staff in the southeastern states as well as Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The exhibition awards are presented in categories based on the funding levels of the exhibits, ranging from those costing over $1,000,000 down to those under $10,000.

The Rural Heritage Museum is located in Montague Hall on the historic upper quadrangle of the Mars Hill University Campus. It is open Tuesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. until 4:00 p.m., and by appointment.