News & Events
MHC Receives $50,000 Janirve Grant to Renovate and Reopen Rural Life Museum
Mars Hill College has received a $50,000 grant from the Janirve Foundation toward the restoration and renovation of its Rural Life Museum, housed in historic Montague Hall on the campus.
Closed in 2006 due to structural damage and water seepage, the museum once served as a vital tool for the collection, preservation, exhibition and interpretation of rural life artifacts relevant to the history and culture of the Southern Appalachian region. Copies of historical photographs and excerpts from oral histories were on exhibit throughout the museum, along with antique farm implements, hooked rugs, weaving looms, a moonshine still, and other remnants of historic Madison County culture.
Monies from the Janirve grant will be used toward a total renovation project that includes: installing handicap accessible-restrooms in the building, updating the electrical system and repairing water damage. Additionally, the renovations will include installation of a heating and air conditioning system which will regulate temperature and moisture in the museum and in its storage areas.
According to Mars Hill College Archivist Karen Paar, this aspect of the project is essential to maintain the integrity of the exhibits at the museum, as well as any artifacts which may be in storage. She said that a reopened museum will be an asset to Mars Hill College students, and an important means of community outreach.
Paar said: “This museum is an important way that we at Mars Hill College have for many years shared the history and culture of this region with a wide audience, from school children to visitors passing through Madison County on vacation. Having this museum reopened will allow Regional Studies students to gain experience interpreting the Southern Appalachians for this wide audience through serving as docents; conducting programs for visitors; and helping to research and design museum exhibits.”
Originally built as a library in 1919, Montague Hall is a native stone structure which faces N.C. Highway 213 and is now on the National Register of Historic Places as part of MHC’s Historic District.
The Janirve Grant was awarded based on the Museum’s education and cultural significance, as well as its economic value as a tourist destination in Madison County. During its years of operation, around 5,000 visitors toured the museum each year.
The Museum has been also selected as one of twenty tourist destinations to receive interpretive and wayfinding signage through North Carolina Department of Transportation funding administered by the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area, which should help bring literally hundreds of new visitors to the museum when re-opened.
Steve Garrison, Madison County Manager, said the Rural Life Museum at Mars Hill College is important to maintaining the unique history and culture of Madison County, including its mountain traditions, folk lore, music and traditional farm life.
“With the advent of a renewed interest in our history and heritage, it is important now more than ever that a permanent home be established to showcase and preserve the treasures that identify Madison County as the true jewel of the Appalachians,” Garrison said. “I applaud the staff of Mars Hill College for their continued efforts to renovate historic Montague Hall. This building will play an important role in preserving our way of life.”
According to MHC president Dan Lunsford, the grant is the latest chapter in a legacy of support for the educational and cultural resources available to the region through Mars Hill College. This legacy includes over $1.5 million in donations received from the Foundation since the mid-1980s to help fund campus improvements now seen at Moore Auditorium, Pittman Cafeteria, Renfro Library, The Ramsey Center for Regional Studies, several dormitories and Ferguson Math and Science Center.
“Mars Hill College is most grateful for the support the Janirve Foundation has provided over the past 25 years,” Lunsford said. “Janirve has made a significant impact on the college and on western North Carolina that will continue to be felt for years to come. Whether through improving our residence halls or our academic facilities, or now through helping to reopen our Rural Life Museum, the foundation’s support has enhanced the utilization of the campus by the students, faculty, staff and the public.”