May 29, 2012

Blast from the Past: Museum of Appalachia


Wanting to do something different to celebrate Memorial Day this year, the southern beau and I decided to visit Norris, Tennessee, only a fifteen minute drive from Knoxville on Interstate 75. Norris is a really quaint little place and home to the Museum of Appalachia.


The Museum of Appalachia is a living history museum that gives visitors a look at what life was like for folks living during pioneer times in our region. With more than 30 historic buildings on the 63 acre property, the museum offers visitors a chance to see all different facets of days gone by.


Preserving and displaying thousands of authentic relics, the Museum of Appalachia maintains one of our nation’s largest folk art collections and each year, there are events for the public that include traditional Appalachian music performances and demonstrations by regional craftspeople. You can also see lots of different artifacts from a different time, including well-worn tools and many interesting pieces of used farm equipment.


During our visit, we didn’t take the full tour, but the beau and I were able to see many of the sights and exhibits around the grounds. My favorite part was the peacocks that roam around freely and walk right up to visitors hoping for a scrap of bread or some other snack.


John Rice Irwin was an East Tennessee educator and businessman who established the Museum of Appalachia in the 1960s. The grounds are intended to mimic a working pioneer Appalachian farm…there are gardens growing typical crops and in addition to the peacocks, goats, chickens, turkeys and sheep are right at home. 


I definitely want to visit the museum again (possibly in the fall when the weather is a bit less humid). There’s something so special about history preserved. In a way I hope this blog serves as a sort of living history…telling the stories of people who have gone before and keeping their memories and legacies alive.

If you haven’t been to the Museum of Appalachia, I suggest you try to go sometime. What started as just a single log structure has grown over the past 40 years to include buildings on the National Register of Historic Places, a rare Appalachian cantilever barn, and a cabin once inhabited by the parents of Mark Twain. You can even get married or host other special events at the facilities.
I hope you had a lovely Memorial Day and that your summer is off to a grand start!