ELLERBE — Gail Benson has resigned as curator of the Rankin Museum of American Heritage but won’t become part of the museum’s history herself until the end of November.
A fixture at the Rankin for 31 years, Benson has been a volunteer, a part-timer and, lately, the face of the museum. She knows every little thing about every display and has put her stamp on the museum’s future by adding exhibits that appeal to children, as well as history buffs.
“We do not want to see her leave,” museum board chair Brett Webb said Friday. “Gail’s been there before the exhibits. Her talent and creativity have made the museum what it is today.”
What the Rankin Museum is today is a draw to Ellerbe — a frequent destination for school field trips and others fascinated by everything from arrowheads to the Amazon. As curator, Benson has both shaped the exhibits and explained their meaning to individuals and tour groups visiting the 5,000-square-foot museum.
In 2015, she created an exhibit for late wrestler Andre the Giant — who lived in the Ellerbe area from 1980 until his death in 1993 — with items donated from Jackie McAuley and others. Benson said the research she had to do was “hard work” but that she enjoyed it.
This fall, she was instrumental in the building of a flume in the Rankin’s backyard, a place where youngsters can “mine” for minerals and fossils.
“I’ve been here for 31 years,” Benson said Friday. “I’m tired.
“It was kind of neat to watch it grow,” she said of the museum. But “you just kind of get burned out.”
“They’re sitting in a good place right now,” she said of the museum board. “I get calls all the time” about people who would like to work at the Rankin.
Mayor Lee Berry said Friday that the Rankin was a big draw for “out-of-towners” passing through Ellerbe and a place he bragged about.
“I’m sure she’s going to be missed,” he said of Benson. “I would hope she’s going to keep her hand in” in the choice of a successor.
Reach Christine Carroll at 910-817-2673.