Kaye Brown Hirst: A champion of Rowan history

Published 12:10 am Sunday, May 15, 2016

Kaye Brown Hirst doesn’t just like to tell Rowan County’s story; she likes to live it. She is hands-on.

She dons her 18th century costume for the German Christmas Celebration at the Old Stone House year after year. She bakes gingerbread for the Rowan Museum’s annual gingerbread house workshop. She organizes history camps. The list goes on and on.

Executive director of the Rowan Museum, Hirst has helped bring Rowan County’s history alive for nearly 20 years. That comes to an end when she steps down later this month. As Hirst is praised at a reception in her honor today, toasts should go up for a job well and lovingly done.

For Hirst, Rowan’s history is not just interesting. It’s personal. She is a descendant of Michael Braun, who in 1766 built the Old Stone House, one of the museum’s prized properties. Her roots go deep into Rowan County soil, and preservation is in her blood. Anyone searching for a tidbit about Rowan County history should start with Hirst; chances are she knows it.

On Hirst’s watch, the Rowan Museum board, staff and volunteers tackled the challenge in 1999 of moving the museum collection from the Utzman-Chambers House on Jackson Street to the much larger Old Rowan County Courthouse at 202 N. Main. The new location opened the door to countless exhibits, displays and events. The museum blossomed.

Hirst has championed Rowan County history and raised the museum’s profile, a fact that helps the nonprofit as it seeks grants and donations. The decision to make the museum’s grand Messinger Room available as venue helped the museum raise money and gave residents a much-needed option when planning local events.

Many thanks to Kaye Brown Hirst for having the vision to see what the Rowan Museum could be and the grit to make it happen.