The WNC Military History Museum in Brevard has changed its name and logo and is expanding its emphasis on honoring veterans to neighboring South Carolina. The museum’s new name, Veterans History Museum of the Carolinas, better reflects this new mission as well as those who visit the museum each year, says the museum’s curator, Emmett Casciato. A special exhibit, every edition of Life magazine published during WWII, will be on display this month. “The covers reflect the history of our country from 1941 to 1945,” Casciato says.
A history buff, Casciato began collecting military artifacts and uniforms many years ago, growing the collection in his basement. “I never served in the military, so this is my way of honoring those who did,” he says. His father served during WWII and a daughter graduated from West Point and was deployed to Afghanistan.
The museum began as temporary exhibits at a number of locations including the Transylvania Heritage Museum and the lobby of downtown’s historic Aethelwold Hotel. Board members are currently leasing a 4,000-square-foot space in the courthouse annex and have begun a capital campaign to raise funds for a permanent building of 8,000 to 10,000 square feet with outside exhibit space for large vehicles and equipment.
Among the museum’s collection are uniforms, medals, letters, newspaper articles, tools, weapons, meal kits, journals, photos and video recordings of every war from WWI to the present day. “Most of these items have been donated by veterans or families of veterans who want their loved ones’ uniforms and personal items to be preserved and displayed for the public to see,” says board member Janis Allen, who researched and, in 2017, published World War II Veterans of Western North Carolina: Their Stories in Their Own Words. Among the museum’s unique items are a piece of upholstery fabric from the sofa in the Eagle’s Nest, a meeting place for Hitler and the Nazis, and a photo of the Japanese surrender on the U.S.S. Missouri that shows Hendersonville WWII veteran Robert Sutherland standing behind Gen. Douglas MacArthur.
“The museum provides a tangible way to honor our veterans by telling their stories,” Allen says. “Many veterans from WWII, Korea, Vietnam and the wars in the Middle East visit the museum often, telling stories, volunteering and meeting and talking to other veterans.” Vietnam veterans, especially, feel appreciated for their service by the museum’s displays and stories, she adds.
The museum also provides a “vivid, engaging learning experience” for young people, Allen says. “Teachers often plan class visits to coincide with the periods of history they are teaching at a given time. Scout groups attend to learn how soldiers survived, to hear stories demonstrating service to their country and to honor those who secured and continue to secure our freedom.”
The Veterans History Museum of the Carolinas is located at 21 East Main Street, Brevard. Hours are Wednesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Sunday, 1–4 p.m. A September event will be held to introduce the new museum’s vision to the public. To learn more, call 828.884-2141.