For over five decades a core group of Rockingham County citizens, centralized in the County’s Historical Society, imagined a county-wide, sustainable historic complex, comprised of the former Wright Tavern Historic Site (1816) and the Rockingham County courthouse (1907) and jail (1910), that would serve as the central repository for artifacts and archival records; a support network for the various smaller museums, historic sites, and arts organizations; an educational supplement to the school system; a venue for community programs and an attraction to draw visitors to the area. They imagined a place where they could protect and preserve history and make it available to the public in an engaging and meaningful way. They never stopped working towards that end. They never stopped believing.
The organization’s dream came to fruition and the Museum & Archives of Rockingham County (MARC) opened August 11, 2012 featuring a Smithsonian Institution travelling exhibit and a photography exhibit courtesy of Carol Highsmith, a home town girl and a nationally acclaimed photographer whose work is sponsored by and displayed at the Library of Congress. To these national exhibits, twelve authentic, inclusive, and locally relevant exhibits were added.
Since the opening, the MARC has welcomed over 5,000 visitors, exhibits have been refreshed and new ones added. Over 1,500 students have visited the museum and historic site on field trips–subsequently, the superintendent of schools has instructed its 4th and 8th grade teachers to include a field trip to the MARC in the coming school year.
Additionally, MARC has become a venue where county organizations and associations meet and hold special events. It is an off-campus location for Rockingham Community College courses and an affordable leisure time activity for local people and visitors to the area.
Our national, state and local partners and visitors have returned high praise and commendation for the work that has been completed. MARC has made an auspicious start.
Over the last several years, analysis and feasibility reports repeatedly encourage Rockingham County to capitalize on its cultural and natural resources. The goals and objectives of MARC are consistent with those recommendations.