Museum of Appalachia, Tennessee

Day 232

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     John Rice Irwin was born on December 11, 1930 in Union County, Tennessee. His ancestors were pioneers of the area and he was devoted to preserving the history of his people’s struggle in the Appalachia. He started collecting heirlooms, while connecting each item to the person who owned it and telling their story.  In 1968, Irwin founded the Museum of Appalachia to house and display his growing collection. By 1980, the museum had grown so large that Irwin left his job in education to devote all of his time to the museum.

     Although the museum started as only a small log building, today it has grown to a village-farm complex, comprehending more than 35 original mountain structures, two large display buildings containing thousands of Appalachian artifacts, farm animals, and several gardens. In May 2007, the museum became an affiliate with the Smithsonian Institution. John Rice Irwin retired from the museum in 2009. 

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     One of the buildings was devoted to the the people who lived in The Appalachia area, both well known to us, and well known in the area only: Bill Monroe, the Carter Family (who ultimately produced June Carter), Uncle Dave Macon, Homer Harris, Cordell Hull (US Secretary of State), Jim Smith, Sgt. Alvin C. York, Cass Walker, Chet Akins, Redd Stewart (author of The Tennessee Waltz), Archie (Grandpappy) Campbell, etc. Each section told the story of that person. 

     The onslaught of history here is overwhelming as there are over a quarter million items. However, the museum is not about the artifacts, but about the men and women who created them. 

Barbara talks to the peacocks. 

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     There was no explanation for this, it was just laying on the ground. Could the peacocks have done it?

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