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Heritage Museum to celebrate 35th season

By Brad Hicks

A ceremony will be held this weekend to mark the annual opening of a facility that has been dedicated to showcasing Unicoi County’s history and heritage for more than 30 years.

The Unicoi County Heritage Museum is scheduled to reopen for its 35th season this Saturday. An opening ceremony will begin at 1 p.m. that day on the museum grounds, with festivities and live entertainment following the ceremony.

The public is invited to attend the ceremony.

The Unicoi County Heritage Museum, which once served as the home place of the superintendent of the nearby Erwin National Fish Hatchery, opened in July 1982. The museum features a number of themed rooms, including a parlor, Blue Ridge Pottery room, butler’s pantry and wildlife room, as well quilts and military memorabilia. The old Greasy Cove schoolhouse is also located on the grounds, and a nature trail is located just behind the museum.

The ceremony will also mark the seasonal reopening of the adjacent Clinchfield Railroad Museum, which opened its doors in June 2011. This museum, which aims to tell the story of Erwin’s rich railroad history, includes several exhibit rooms containing railroad artifacts and memorabilia.

Martha Erwin, who serves as curator for the museums, said the museum’s theme is “Clinchfield Pride.”

“The spirit of pride is always in style while promoting our town’s railroad legacy and heritage for future generations,” Erwin said.

The ceremony’s entertainment will be provided by Art Lang and Friends, which perform old-time ballads, historic, novelty and gospel songs, along with some old-time string band tunes. The group’s set will include some railroad-related songs.

The Clinchfield Railroad Museum, in particular, has been the subject of much attention recently. East Tennessee State University students from the “Documenting Community Traditions” course, which is part of the university’s Department of Appalachian Studies, previously worked closely with Erwin and utilized the Clinchfield Railroad Museum to conduct interviews with former railroad employees.

A group of these students presented “A Railroad Town Without A Railroad: The Changing Cultural Landscape of Erwin, TN” at Erwin Town Hall in February. At that time, students also presented Erwin with a rack card they had designed and created to provide potential visitors with information on the Clinchfield Railroad Museum.

Following Saturday’s ceremony, both the Unicoi County Heritage Museum and Clinchfield Railroad Museum will be open daily from 1-5 p.m. through October. Admission is $4 per adult and $2 per child.

The museums are located next to the Erwin National Fish Hatchery on Federal Hatchery Road in the Town of Erwin.

The museums are also available for field trips, private events and organizational outings. For more information on the museums or Saturday’s ceremony, contact Erwin at 743-8923 or 735-9233.