Second Big Read for Wilmington

by Shannon Rae Gentry
Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Cape Fear Museum was recently one of 77 organizations in the nation to be granted funding from the National Endowment for the Arts to host the 2013 Big Read project in the Cape Fear region. 

The Big Read is a program designed to restore reading to American culture and was brought to Wilmington last year when several community organizations collaborated to promote “The Great Gatsby” through museum exhibitions, guest speakers and book promotions.

The Big Read Greater Wilmington collaborators include The Arts Council of Wilmington and New Hanover County, Cameron Art Museum, Cape Fear Community College, Thalian Association, the University of North Carolina Wilmington, and many more community partners that will provide related programming, activities and outreach.

Amy Mangus, the public relations specialist at the Cape Fear Museum, said the $16,000 grant will be used to promote the reading of “The Things They Carried” by Tim O’Brien in conjunction with the Cape Fear Museum opening a traveling exhibition called “Mail Call” from Nov. 9, 2013 to Jan. 20, 2014.

“The Big Read provides a list of novels on its website that they want people to choose from to read in the community … and [“The Things They Carried”] was a natural fit,” Mangus said.

Organized with the Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum, “Mail Call” exhibits the story of military mail and communication from the American Revolution to current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

The museum also received $5,000 from the Smithsonian Community Grant program that will be used for programming related to “Mail Call,” including free admission to active military and their families throughout the duration of the exhibit.

“We’re also going to do a military road show-type program, where we encourage veterans to bring in their military ephemera … and basically look at the preservation of those artifacts,” Mangus said.

“We don’t have a lot of artifacts in our collection from more modern-day wars like the Korean War, Vietnam, the Gulf Wars, Iraq and Afghanistan. We want to encourage younger veterans to consider donating those items to the collection, as well as talking about what those objects mean to them and what they were used for,” she said.

The book “The Things They Carried” is a collection of related stories about a platoon of American soldiers in the Vietnam War and related activities will be offered throughout the duration of The Big Read. Additionally, author Tim O’Brien will speak about his work at three local venues in January 2014.

Mangus said that several local bookstores and libraries have pledged to make “The Things They Carried” available to the community, including Old Books on Front, Pomegranate Books, and the New Hanover County Public Library. A limited supply of books will be given away for free at various Big Read events.

“I think this book is good choice with the topic of war and how it affects people, and [The Big Read] is a good opportunity to work together and discuss what’s a difficult topic,” she said.

For updates and a schedule of events for The Big Read Greater Wilmington beginning in November, visit


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