Students at Reece Museum

Go Back to School at East Tennessee Museums

The frenzy of football season drives many of us back to our alma mater.  Swept with feelings of nostalgia, we return to our old “stomping grounds” and recall many good times.

There’s more to a campus visit these days than returning to old hangouts.  Universities in East Tennessee have hidden gems: museums with outstanding permanent collections and traveling exhibitions.

You may reject the idea of a museum stop because—after all—you are here to see tackles and touchdowns. Think again and include a museum visit in your weekend.


Pueblo pottery at the McClung

On the University of Tennessee-Knoxville campus, just a long pass from Neyland Stadium, the McClung Museum of Natural History and Culture is exhibiting “Pueblo to Pueblo: The Legacy of Southwest Indian Pottery” through Jan. 5, 2014. It includes 60 vessels of Pueblo Indian pottery created from the mid-19th to 20th centuries, complemented by photographs of Pueblo villages and peoples. Pueblo pottery making emerged about 2,000 years ago in the Southwest and grew in importance from generation to generation. The finely crafted pieces bear designs reflecting aspects of daily life and spiritual beliefs.


Egyptian collection at the McClung

UTK’s Ewing Gallery has textiles of Japan and India in its exhibition featuring the works of Amsterdam-based artist Fransje Killaars. She is internationally recognized for vividly colored works with monochrome counterparts.

The Cress Gallery of Art is located in the Fine Arts Center by the concert hall and theater at the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga. George Ayers Cress, founder, was on the art department faculty for more than 50 years. More than 700 works are in the permanent collection, populated by American artists like Robert Motherwell.

Carson-Newman University is exhibiting all seven volumes of the Heritage Edition of the Saint John’s Bible. The full-size, museum-quality reproductions display the first handwritten Bible since the advent of the printing press. Pages of calligraphy and illumination are on view in Ted Russell Hall on the C-N campus, Jefferson City.

It may come as a surprise that East Tennessee State University in Johnson City boasts five museums, each with its own raison d’etre.

IndiVisible at Reece Museum, ETSU

Photo from IndiVisible exhibit at the Reece Museum

The B. Carroll Reece Museum, a jewel on the ETSU campus, recently received a $1.7 million renovation.  It reopened several months ago but will host the official grand reopening festivities Nov. 8-13, 2013. Two exhibitions open that weekend: “IndiVisible: African-Native American Lives in the Americas” and “Tradition ─ Tennessee Lives and Legacies.”

“IndiVisible” explores the lives and experiences of people who share African American and Native American ancestry. “Their rich, intertwined heritage exists in all parts of the country including East Tennessee,” said museum director Theresa Hammons. The exhibition presents stories of cultural integration and diffusions and recognizes the great effort to define and preserve identity.  The large panel exhibition, circulated by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Services, opens Nov. 9.

Fiddle, Reece Museum, ETSU

Fiddle at the Reece Museum

The exhibition “Tradition ─ Tennessee Lives and Legacies” uses 25 profiles to highlight the state’s folk heritage. Through photographs and essays, the project expresses the strength and diversity of Tennessee’s grassroots cultural life. Craftsmen from Hancock County and old-time musicians from Roan Mountain are included in the exhibition. It is sponsored by the Tennessee Arts Commission and will be on view Nov. 8─Dec. 21, 2013.

Celebratory events on Nov. 8 include a behind-the-scenes tour of the museum’s archaeology and ethnographic collections, and presentations by Thunder Williams and Penny Gamble-Williams, community curators with the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian.  Daniel Bigay, a member of the Echota Cherokee Tribe, will provide musical entertainment.  (Ticket required.) Community Day at the Reece on Nov. 9 will be a free, family-friendly event with art demonstrations and musical entertainment.

“ETSU has really taken a lead in preserving regional mountain heritage, along with presenting and promoting the arts,” Hammons noted. The Reece Museum is a unit of ETSU’s Appalachian Studies & Services.  The museum holds more than 22,000 artifacts in its permanent collection.

ETSU’s Natural History Museum came into being after the discovery of a large, 5-million-year-old fossil deposit near Johnson City in the town of Gray.  The George L. Carter Railroad Museum delves into the region’s heritage of coal trains and has three large operating model railroad layouts. Slocumb Galleries, affiliated with the ETSU Department of Art & Design, provide year-round exhibition programs featuring works by students, faculty and visiting artists. The Museum at Mountain Home, associated with the Quillen College of Medicine, holds artifacts related to the medical heritage of South Central Appalachia.


Inside the McClung Museum

What are your favorite museums in Tennessee?

Hi! I’m Linda Lange. As a travel writer living in Knoxville, I fully appreciate barbecue, bluegrass and Dollywood. My story...Read on

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