May 24--Efforts are under way to expand the Oliver Nestus Freeman Round House and add a Wilson history and art museum.
A fundraising campaign has started with the goal to raise $200,000 to add a new 2,000-square-foot building next to the Round House, at 1202 E. Nash St., where more of Wilson's history can be displayed.
"There's a need in Wilson for a history and art museum for all people," said Bill Myers, museum director. "We've got the land, enthusiasm and we need the community support."
The Round House, which opened in 2001, has served as a local resource for Wilson's African-American history but through the years, the space inside the museum has been limited. The new building would provide space for additional African-American items but also house Wilson's first history and art museum, which will focus on people from all walks of life.
"It's a museum that will help pull Wilson together as one," said Ken Jones, a co-leader of the expansion effort. "It will help represent every sector of Wilson. Wilson has grown to the point that it would appreciate this."
Myers said he is often approached by people who have old news articles and other items about Wilson's history that could be displayed in the museum. Much of Wilson's history needs to be documented and preserved, he said.
"There's a lot of history about Wilson when it wasn't Wilson," Myers said. "We'd like to see it in a new building."
The new building is planned to have six galleries, a conference room and a reception area and will be connected to the Round House, possibly by a covered walkway. A curator from the N.C. Museum of History has offered to help in the development of the museum, Myers said.
"With that kind of excitement and help that's available for us, now is the time for expansion," Myers said.
Close to $90,000 has already been donated toward the effort and naming rights are available, at a cost of $35,000, for each gallery. Organizers would like to raise $200,000 within the next several months with the goal to start the building in the fall.
For more information or to donate, Myers can be reached at 243-2526, Jones at 281-4579 and Willie Williams at 234-2979.
The Round House museum, housed in what once was a three-bedroom house built by master stonemason Oliver Nestus Freeman, is a round, stone-built building with one room where pictures, newspaper articles and a variety of artifacts are displayed. The history of many past and present Wilson leaders is included as well as areas for medicine, sports, education, government, architecture, churches and the military.
Earlier this year the museum added a George Washington Carver exhibit and the property is the site of a summer concert series. The museum is marketed as a tourist attraction.
"With our location off U.S. 301 and U.S. 264, the potential is unlimited," Myers said.
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