“Voices of the Land” Telling East Tennessee’s Story
Davy Crockett’s first gun, the farewell letter of a trapped miner, a rare string of Cherokee beads, slave craftsmanship, a flag that draped the coffin of a man hanged during the Civil War, and Dolly Parton’s dress are among some 500 artifacts showcased in “Voices of the Land,” the new signature exhibition at the East Tennessee History Center in Knoxville. The $3 million, 8,500-square-foot exhibit tells the story of more than three centuries of life in East Tennessee and is the only museum devoted to the showcasing the history of the entire region.
“The mountain-valley terrain was a powerful force in shaping the history and culture of East Tennessee,” said East Tennessee Historical Society Director Cherel Henderson. “It has given us a separate identity apart from the rest of the state.”
From Hernando de Soto to the Cherokee to the Hillbilly stereotype and the atom, the exhibit examines the compelling stories that make up the history of this colorful and diverse region.
“The strength of the exhibit is that the story is told through the actual words and experiences of the people who lived it,” said Henderson.
The exhibit features three video presentations, ambient sound, and 16 touch screens, listening stations and video diaries, as well as children’s interactives.
Visitor reaction is enthusiastic. “I found my life in there,” exclaimed one senior visitor as she exited the exhibit. Another visitor remarked, “I’m a long-time lover of museums, and I can say that this exhibit is outstanding! I can’t wait to bring my children and grandchildren.”
Partnerships were key in the planning, implementation and funding stages of the center.
• Voices of the Land was designated as a, “We the People,” project by the National Endowment for the Humanities for its role in incorporating local history into the national story.
• The State of Tennessee and Institute of Museum and Library Sciences funded a portion of the fabrication and educational components.
• Tennessee Civil War National Heritage Area partially funded the Civil War section and the Civil War presentation video.
• Y-12 National Security Complex funded the Oak Ridge video album.
• The State of Tennessee legislature, federal grants, plus corporate and personal sponsorships were other key funding sources.
The East Tennessee History Center is located in downtown Knoxville at 601 South Gay Street, across from the historic Tennessee Theater. Admission is $5 for adults, $4 for seniors, and children 16 and under are free. For additional information, visit www.eastTNhistory.org or call (865) 215-8830.