Close your eyes and picture a mountain farming village from the mid-1800s. What do you see, smell, hear and taste? Rickety log cabins surrounded by the greenest grass you’ve ever seen? Sheep, cows and horses grazing peacefully behind split-rail fences? Artisans carving dulcimers, churning butter and weaving baskets on porches? The faint harmonies of hymns mingling with the clanking coming from the blacksmith? The scent of wood smoke and sizzling bacon?
If that isn’t what you imagine when you think of Southern Appalachia, it will be after a visit to the Museum of Appalachia.
The Museum of Appalachia is a living history museum dedicated to the culture and history of Southern Appalachia. It was founded by John Rice Irwin, a former Anderson County school superintendent. Rice’s ancestors settled in the area centuries ago and, consequently, he grew up hearing the many stories they collected. Driven by a love of those stories and the culture of the region, he began collecting farm implements, corn-husk brooms, horseshoeing boxes; whatever he could get his hands on. By the 1960s, those artifacts had become the Museum of Appalachia.
The museum is a 65-acre farm village comprised of dozens of historic log structures, buildings displaying more than 200,000 Appalachian artifacts and farm animals in an authentic 19th-century farm setting.
An Affiliate Museum of the Smithsonian Institution, the complex is dotted with historic log cabins, a loom house, a grist mill, a schoolhouse, barns, corncribs, outhouses and more. Many of the buildings are authentic to the area and were moved to the museum’s land from elsewhere in East Tennessee. Two large exhibit halls showcase a tremendous collection of folk art, everything from hand-painted murals to carvings of ‘coons. Genuine artifacts are everywhere, including pottery, quilts, furniture, guns, toys, baskets and musical instruments. Thousands of photographs are also on hand, as well as an archive collecting oral histories.
The museum has a special affinity for preserving traditional mountain arts and music. The Porch Musician Project features daily musical performances on the porch of the Peters Homestead House (one of the museum’s many buildings). A gift shop sells the wares of regional artisans. A restaurant allows visitors to sample hot lunches like fried green tomatoes, chicken ‘n’ dumplings, fresh from the garden vegetables and peach cobbler.
Perhaps the best time to visit is during the annual four-day Tennessee Fall Homecoming. The autumn festival celebrates the pioneer life with music, food, crafts and more. Hundreds of musicians play gospel, folk, bluegrass and old-time country music on stages. Craftspeople demonstrate skills like sheepherding, butter churning, whittling and rail splitting. Local cooks prepare country food on wood burning stoves and in big iron kettles. Hymns are sung in the chapel. It’s plenty of fun and Southern hospitality, or what it might have been like 150 years ago.
The museum is at 2819 Andersonville Highway in Clinton, found 17 miles north of Knoxville off of Interstate 75, east of Exit 122 on Highway 61. Admission is $14.95 for adults 13-64, $12 for seniors, $5 for children 6-12 and free for children under six. Group rates are available for 20 or more adults. The museum is open during daylight hours all year, closed only on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. Opening and closing hours vary considerably throughout the year. Visit the Museum of Appalachia Web site or call 865-494-7680 for more information.
|Concessions||Gift Shop||Live Music||Rides||Cost||Age|
|Baseball Fields||Basketball Court||Golf Course||Soccer Fields||Softball||Tennis Courts|
|Backcountry Camping||Campsite||Showers||Hiking||Running Trails||Picnic Area|
|Pavilion||Playground||Food Vendors||Restrooms||Grills||Alcohol Allowed|
|Boat Rentals||Boat Ramps||Docks||Marina||Lake||River/Stream|
|Sunday||10 a.m.||6 p.m.|
|Monday||10 a.m.||5 p.m.|
|Tuesday||10 a.m.||5 p.m.|
|Wednesday||10 a.m.||5 p.m.|
|Thursday||10 a.m.||5 p.m.|
|Friday||10 a.m.||5 p.m.|
|Saturday||10 a.m.||6 p.m.|
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