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New Director Plans ‘Banner Year’ for Wright Museum

Sarah Wright - May 12, 2014





Wright Museum

The Wright Museum features several WWII-era vehicles, including jeeps and a tank. (Photo Courtesy of Wright Museum)

The Wright Museum — or, as my three-year-old son calls it, “the tank museum” — will be celebrating its 20th anniversary this summer. Last October, Michael Culver stepped in as the new executive director of the museum and he’s got lots of great plans for this year.

Although his background is in art, Michael is excited to switch gears and help revitalize a museum dedicated to celebrating the achievements of our country during World War II. In college, Culver majored in art history, and later became the curator of the Museum of American Art in Ogunquit, Maine. After 25 years there, he took a job at an art museum in Florida. Now he’s back in New England, in the quaint resort town of Wolfeboro, taking charge of a non-profit institution that teaches the public about an important time in U.S. history.

WWII is an event that interests and inspires Michael. He believes that there’s great value for every generation in learning about how the U.S. united to win WWII, with special emphasis on the home front and what people were willing to do to support the U.S. in its mission.

The museum displays military vehicles, models, photographs, and uniforms, but also houses many artifacts that show the Second World War’s impact on American life at the time.

Michael’s first order of business in his new role is to focus on advertising and programming to draw in a more diverse crowd. He’s hoping to excite visitors with two special summer exhibitions. The first traveling exhibit will highlight the 70th anniversary of D-Day with photographs, some never published. In fact, there’s a lot that the museum will be doing to reflect on this anniversary. An all-day film festival on Aug. 5 will feature films about D-Day. (June 6, the actual anniversary of D-Day, will feature two showings of the critically acclaimed D-Day Remembered documentary.) Also, when patrons enter the museum, they will see a recreation of the beach on D-Day, like a life-size diorama, with a jeep hauling a trailer of equipment and barricades on the sand.

The second summer exhibition will explore the life of Anne Frank and introduce visitors to WWI and WWII through photographs of families like the Franks, visually showing how their lives were affected by the decisions of others. That exhibit will be displayed into October and Michael hopes school groups will take advantage of it.

The museum’s lecture series will be getting a boost with more varied topics. After last year’s successful lecture about how women cooked with limited ingredients during the war, Michael has added three new lectures for this season, one about WWII-era songs, one about the contributions that Native Americans made during the war, and a lecture about Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s leadership during that period, given by Jeffrey Urbin, an education specialist from the FDR library.

Landscaping plans also are underway for an outdoor Victory Garden, which will be opening soon. The garden is a fenced-in, 20’x27’ plot for growing flowers and vegetables, which will serve as a replica of the gardens that people all over the U.S. planted in order to have access to fresh ingredients during the war. The government also distributed brochures to teach the public about canning and how they could can produce from their gardens to send overseas to fighting soldiers. It was yet another way for the American public to help out in the war effort. The museum plans to donate the produce grown in the garden to the local food pantry.

Another way to celebrate the museum’s 20th anniversary is to attend the Sentimental Journey Ball on July 26, and enjoy the music of a live, 1940s swing band. Tickets include complimentary beer or wine and desserts. Coat and tie are required, but period dress also is welcome.

To further celebrate this special year, Michael is hoping to get the town to declare the week of July 14 “Wright Museum Week” and he is even petitioning Congress to make the week (or day) official.

The museum’s popular Family Day will return on July 13, allowing visitors to hitch a ride in an authentic, WWII vehicle. This year, Michael is adding a magician as well as animal demonstrations for the children.

On Aug. 16, the museum will hold its second annual antique auto show. There were 80 cars last year and the new goal is to hit 100.

Michael is hoping to see a big increase in the number of museum visitors this year. As he likes to say, “Come experience the past and be inspired by a nation united.”

Located at 77 Center Street in Wolfeboro, the Wright Museum’s season runs from May 1 to Oct. 31. Doors are open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. every day except Sunday, when the hours are noon to 4 p.m. Admission for members and children under age 4 is always free and there are discounts for those in the military and senior citizens as well as students ages 5 to 17. The lectures take place on Tuesdays at 7 p.m. On your way out of the museum, don’t forget to stop in the newly expanded gift shop.

For more information about the museum’s events, to view the lecture schedule, or to learn about making a donation to support the museum, visit www.wrightmuseum.org

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