Marvelous Museums of Knoxville, TN – Part 3
Knoxville, Tennessee, offers a wealth of venues for history buffs, which was an added bonus on our recent visit with relatives. We had taken in the Museum of Appalachia and the American Museum of Science & Energy, and next on the list was the Museum of East Tennessee History. We were interested in learning more about the people that wove the fabric of this beautiful place, from the the Cherokee Indians to the civil rights proponents.
My daughter dubbed the first exhibit as her favorite. The bright and interesting streetscape entrance included a corner drug store, soda fountain, and an actual restored streetcar from the early 1900′s, all of which you could enter and explore. The large collection of period goods and medicines invited close and leisurely examination, and we regularly would call out to one another to admire yet another found treasure.
Once into the main area, the displays led us chronologically through the state’s history via a wealth of photos, artifacts, life-size models and much more. The temporary exhibit of the War of 1812 was declared tops by Andy—our Civil War enthusiast—for its depth of information on the places, participants and provocations involved in the conflict. He was pleased to see this period highlighted, for the very reason the museum stated: The importance of the War of 1812 in forging the future of the young United States is almost impossible to calculate. . .(it) remains one of the least understood and least remembered conflicts in American history.
My husband’s heart was tugged by the common thread of American ingenuity, independent spirit, resourcefulness, solid character and basic grit he saw in Tennesseans, especially as they struggled through the highly divisive and destructive Civil War. The videos coupled with the personal and professional relics provided a fresh perspective on the thousands of families whose lives were forever changed because of this war.
The Myth of the Hillbilly display took top prize for me. I had no idea that writers, governments and even mission schools created and perpetuated the myth of local people as “hillbillies” to peddle stories, gain support and sell goods. The assortment of manufactured merchandise—hillbilly dictionary, Mountain Dew, recipe for Kickapoo Joy Juice, and much more—are a wry testament to the stereotype that continues to this day.
At visit’s end, we were delighted with the wide array of interesting exhibits, and the pleasant, well-lit and effortlessly navigable space they occupied. It’s convenient downtown location, along with free family Sundays made this yet another marvelous museum for our own collection, and I recommend it for yours, too!
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