Davis Memorial Library will celebrate the 50th anniversary of its Lafayette collection by displaying letters, ceramics, medals, snuff boxes and other items related to Lafayette during this year’s Arias and Artifacts event on Sept. 8. A new addition to the collection, a special letter written by Lafayette, will be unveiled.
The event, which is open to the public, begins with a free catered reception in the library at 5:30 p.m. and will be followed by a brief program presented by Archives Librarian Arleen Fields, who will discuss the collection’s history and the newest acquisitions. The arias segment of the evening, a concert featuring French vocal and instrumental music, will begin at 7:30 p.m. in Hensdale Chapel. There is a $10 general admission to the concert, which is free for students with a Methodist ID. Tickets can be purchased at the door, or in advance by calling 910.678.8899.
“The purpose of the exhibition of the collection is to inform people about who Fayetteville is named after,” Fields said. “We encourage our staff and students to use these items in the collection for their own research purposes. That is what they are here for.”
The University’s collection of Lafayette material dates from 1967, when the school was persuaded through Margaret McMahan, a Lafayette scholar, to purchase a collection of letters, monographs and realia for $3,800. The original Lafayette room was dedicated on Sept. 6, 1973, the 216th birthday of the Marquis. Throughout the decades, items from the Lafayette Collection were regularly featured in library displays. Fayetteville’s 2007 celebration of Lafayette’s 250th birthday provided an opportunity for the collection to shine. Since 2014, Methodist University alumnus Gene Dillman, a dealer in political memorabilia, has donated over 50 items, which Fields said has reenergized the collection.
Gilbert du Motier, the Marquis de Lafayette, better known as Lafayette, was a young French soldier who volunteered his services and family fortune in support of the American colonies during the Revolutionary War. After the war, the towns of Campbellton and Cross Creek merged, and chose the patriotic name “Fayetteville” in a bid to become the state capital. Lafayette remained a popular figure in both Europe and the United States, and on March 4-5, 1825, he visited Fayetteville as part of a grand tour of all the states. Fayetteville is the only city named after Lafayette that he also visited.
This event is part of Fayetteville’s 10th annual Lafayette Birthday Celebration. For more information on the weekend’s activities, visit www.lafayettesociety.org.