“Arias and Artifacts” Celebrates Lafayette’s Birthday at Methodist University

This year’s Lafayette birthday celebrations in Fayetteville will include “Arias and Artifacts” at Methodist University. The event begins with a reception at 6 p.m. Friday, Sept. 11, followed by a 6:30 p.m. program highlighting recent additions to the Lafayette Collection at Davis Memorial Library. Members of the MU Chorale will also share memories of their recent visit to St. Avold, France, Fayetteville’s sister city. Afterward, there will be a 7:30 p.m. concert of French music in Hensdale Chapel, presented by vocalist Gail Morfesis and friends. The event is free and open to the public, though an $8 donation is suggested for the concert.

The Lafayette Collection includes letters, monographs, books, commemorative items, maps, and other items dating from Lafayette’s lifetime and beyond. Archives Librarian Arleen Fields is the curator of the University’s special collections, and has organized this year’s event, in conjunction with the Lafayette Society.

“The highlight of the program will be a presentation to the University of an 1825 ‘Lafayette map’ of Fayetteville from the Lafayette Society,” Fields said. “The map is a window into the history of Fayetteville and our connection to Lafayette.”

Gilbert du Motier, the Marquis de Lafayette, gained fame as a young Frenchman fighting for the colonies during the American Revolutionary War. He remained popular in the United States throughout his lifetime and was treated like a celebrity during his “grand tour” of the states in 1824-1825. Lafayette visited Fayetteville in March 1825, and the Lafayette Room in Davis Memorial Library is furnished in the style of southern American homes of that time period.

“Last September, we rededicated the Lafayette Room, transitioning the space from an appointment-only museum to a welcoming area where students can study, surrounded by the spirit of Lafayette,” Fields said. “In a similar way, we want to make the materials in our Lafayette Collection more accessible to everyone. The recent changes to the Lafayette Society endowment at Methodist University will allow us to create a research collection that is attractive not only to MU students, but, eventually, to Lafayette scholars nationwide.”

The Lafayette Society was founded in 1981 by the late Martha Duell, as a nonprofit organization to honor the memory of the Marquis de Lafayette and promote awareness of his contributions to mankind and freedom.

“The Lafayette Society is excited to partner with Methodist University in order to build up the Lafayette Collection at Davis Memorial Library,” said Dr. Hank Parfitt, president of the Lafayette Society. “This collection has enormous potential as a resource not only for student scholars at Methodist, but also for faculty and graduate students from other universities. Our board is solidly behind this endeavor and voted unanimously to redirect our endowment with Methodist to this purpose.”

To this end, the group recently added $10,000 to its endowment fund at MU. Methodist has benefited from this endowment since 1985, but until recently, proceeds were designated exclusively for students taking upper-level French classes. Under the new arrangement, the endowment will help further the University’s goal to increase undergraduate student research, as well as support the Lafayette Society’s mission statement to honor Lafayette’s “exemplary leadership skills and his spirit of patriotism by encouraging these traits in the civic character of Fayetteville, North Carolina, the first city in the United States named for him.”

For more information on this event, contact Fields at 910.630.7412, afields@methodist.edu.