(WGHP) — The chance to see the past with a fresh perspective drew Caitlin Williams-Cole to the Davidson County Historical Museum.
“I tell people that all the time, I’m not a history buff, but I love stories and I love learning,” she said.
Her fascination with museums started long before she was on staff.
“My mom brought us here all of the time. I actually have a report that she made me write after a visit where I was imagining traveling back in time and what things used to be like.”
The Lexington native got the chance to bring that experience full circle shortly after graduating from Wake Forest University in 2012.
The museum had an opening for a clerk in 2013.
Willilams-Cole went from clerk to registrar to her current role as the museum’s curator – which tends to surprise some visitors.
“All of our staff are between 30 and 40, and a lot of our visitors who are older than us will come in and say, ‘Oh you don’t know anything about that, you’re too young,’ and the irony is that we study it every day.”
Williams-Cole is responsible for researching, collecting, and preserving artifacts along with creating exhibits and programs that will give visitors a well-rounded experience.
Staff want to preserve stories that have been popular for decades while adding exhibits that feature the stories of people within historically marginalized groups.
“We are talking about the lives of the Black community. Historically, these stories have not been represented in museums and in history books, so that’s what we’re doing now, is going out while we can to speak with people about their past experiences and about their parents and grandparents experiences,” Williams-Cole said.
The museum attracts local visitors and people from around the world.
Most recently, people have traveled from as far as Portland, Oregon, San Antonio, Texas, and Yorkshire, England to visit the museum.
“My favorite thing about this job is the ways that it allows me to interact with people,” Williams-Cole said.
“To hear them commenting on things that they didn’t know or things that they were excited to see be included in exhibit… that makes it all worthwhile.”
An escape room experience was recently added to Davidson Historical Museum’s services to attract a new audience of visitors.
There are plans to reach more preschool-age children. Children are the museum’s fastest-growing demographic.
The museum’s next exhibit will open by February 2024.
Davidson County Historical Museum has received $49,800 in grant money from the Institute of Museum and Library Services through the initiative “Inspire! Grants for Small Museums.”