Special thanks to Alma Douglas, Smithsonian Affiliations National Outreach Manager, for this post.
“What did you people do before the internet?” It was a question that produced a hilarious moment for Smithsonian staff this summer when asked by one of this year’s young ambassadors, hosted by the Smithsonian Latino Center.
Visiting one of our Affiliates, the Museum of Appalachia in Norris, TN, gives a clue. This museum presents a stunning time travel experience as it presents Appalachian cultural heritage.
Founder John Rice Irwin has assembled an amazing collection of objects of everyday life, photographs, and buildings which convey the way life as was lived in Appalachia once upon a time. Authentic log cabin housing, a one-room school house, outdoor kitchens, meat houses, handmade tools and musical instruments, even the proverbial out house, are represented in the museum’s collections. Necessity, invention, and imagination joined forces to create some very unique objects that eased the way of living and provided joyful relief for Appalachian families.
Just imagine banjos and guitars of every shape and design, made with whatever might have been available at the time–creating a new art form, the stirrings of country music, to warm the heart and soul. Soap made from hog renderings, houses to cure meats so it could last for a time, canning so that families could eat long after the harvest, shearing sheep and spinning the wool to make fabric for clothing, all done by hand. Lamps lit by tallow, hearth baking, lumber cut at the saw mill.
The annual, upcoming Tennessee Fall Homecoming, October 8-10, 2010 is a wonderful celebration of the Apppalachian culture which immerses you in that time and place. What might that young intern think after this experience?
You can learn more about Appalachian traditions in the television documentary program “Heartland Series,” airing in 2010. Several episodes were filmed at the Museum of Appalachia.