We took a day trip to The Museum of Appalachia, which I had become aware of on my last trip to Kentucky. It was a pleasant drive of a little over two hours back to a 3-D set of “snapshots” of the history of the area we now consider home.
Very little distance from I-75, we turned into a full frontier village, surrounded by the obligatory split-rail fence. The founder of this wonderful trek back in time must really love the people and places who have shared his life. This feeling permeates everything as you walk the paths of the rural mountain village of thirty-five original log cabins and buildings.
Richard is a reader for reference; while I’m an overview sort of sightseer. Before entering any place of historical significance, we have to agree on our approach. If it were up to Richard, we would never see more than one room of any museum. I, on the other hand, like to do the once-over and, if we like what we see, come back for more. Especially in light of this museum’s close proximity to our home, we agreed on the quick and dirty approach before beginning.
Even though the museum is not, strictly speaking, a living history museum, the approach that Mr. Irwin takes in arranging the displays brings the history very much alive. Mr. Irwin, quite obviously, knew many of the people in the pictures. Many of the descriptions of people and things were written in Mr. Irwin’s own hand. You don’t get much more personal than that.
Of great interest to Richard was the “perpetual motion machine” on display in the Appalachian Hall of Fame. Also housed here was a rocking chair made completely of mule shoes which greatly amused me. The whole village was filled with equal parts history and whimsy.
There are many parts of the museum which are very much alive. We were thrilled to come upon the source of the sounds of screeching coming across the greens in the bodies of a peacock family comprised of a mama teaching her babies to forage while her mate displayed his manly evil-eye feathered tail. His strutting of his stuff put me in mind of the war bonnets worn by the Mardi Gras Indians in New Orleans. We were also very interested in the vegetables growing in their gardens and nicely entertained by the musicians pickin’ on the porch.
Unlike the feeling I get in many museums that the important things are the materials on display, I left the Museum of Appalachia with a feeling that I had been introduced to many people, important because they had helped shape this area -- some by simply being themselves in a one-room cabin or cave.
We vowed to come back with Mamie and Jack, who still live much of the pioneer lifestyle depicted here. The insights they can add, we’re sure, will bring another whole dimension to our next tour.
We were feeling such a part of Americana, that we topped our visit off with apple pie ala mode and hot fudge sundae’s at Shoney’s, another slice of old-time America.