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Local museums offer free admission for Museum Day

By Staff | Sep 28, 2018

CHARLES TOWN — The Jefferson County Museum joined hundreds of museums across the country, including Shepherdstown’s Entler Museum, offering free admission on Saturday, as part of Museum Day. The 14th annual event was sponsored by Smithsonian magazine and encouraged museums to offer free admission, just as the Smithsonian Institution’s facilities do each day.

Sarah Huston, curator at the museum in Charles Town, said museums were asked to share history by participating in the annual Museum Day event.

The theme of this year’s Museum Day was “Women Making History,” with an aim to recognize women who were trailblazers in the arts, sciences, innovation and culture, according to a Smithsonian magazine press release.

“Given the strides women are making in society, our theme Women Making History encourages participating museums and museum goers alike, to celebrate and honor the female heroines that help shape the world around us,” said Amy Wilkins, chief revenue officer at Smithsonian Media.

Coinciding with that theme, the Jefferson County Museum highlighted Harriet Lane, niece of President James Buchanan, among other local women in history.

Lane, according to Huston, had attended boarding school in Charles Town, although many online accounts refer to the school being in Charleston. Following her education that also included schools in Pennsylvania and Georgetown, Maryland, Lane served as First Lady of the United States, as her uncle was unmarried. As First Lady, Lane used her influence to promote the arts, foster public service and advocate on behalf of the American Indians. Referred to as the “Democratic Queen,” Lane was a popular hostess during the Buchanan presidency.

She was instrumental in the creation of the country’s first national gallery of art by leaving her art collection to the federal government, which led to the establishment of a national gallery of art at the Smithsonian Institution.

The museum offers many other exhibits of local history visitors can enjoy, including those detailing John Brown’s Raid and subsequent execution in Charles Town, the service and history of Frank Buckles and the history of many individuals of local importance.

According to Huston, a new exhibit will open on Oct. 16, featuring letters from the John Brown era, including letters from Brown, his son Jason and others involved in the Harpers Ferry raid in 1859. The exhibit will be available for visitors to observe through December.

The museum is open to the public from March to mid-December, Tuesday through Saturday 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, visit www.jeffcomuseumwv.org.