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Local museums plan to open doors to public over holiday weekend

Contributed Photo • Closed for more than a year due to COVID-19, the Clinchfield Railroad Museum and the Unicoi County Heritage Museum plan to reopen over the Fourth of July weekend.

By Richard Rourk

Two important showcases for Unicoi County history is set to reopen following a year of pandemic-caused closure.

Clinchfield Railroad Museum and the Unicoi County Heritage Museum are scheduled to open Saturday, July 3, according to Curator Martha Erwin. 

Erwin stated, “We will be open from 1 to 5 p.m.”

The museums have been closed due to COVID-19 but Erwin said that she is cautiously optimistic about reopening the historical sites. 

“It has taken a toll on our budget, but it is time to reopen,” Erwin said. “We are happy to be opening back up after a year of Covid.”

The museums have featured several iconic Unicoi County artifacts through the years. 

“We have had a Blue Ridge Pottery display that has been popular,” Erwin said. “We also have several railroad pieces that honor the historic relationship between Unicoi County and the railroad.”

The museums have hosted many guest pieces as well as guest speakers through the years including local gun legend Dave Byrd and his famous guns. 

“Mr. Byrd is an expert antique firearms appraiser and collector of locally made surviving rifles,” Erwin said. 

She noted that Byrd has shared his lifelong knowledge of early local gunsmiths that inhabited Northeast Tennessee. 

“He also had copies of his book titled ‘Gunmakers of Buffalo Valley and Greasy Cove in Unicoi County.”

In addition to the numerous artifacts and speakers, the museum provides several photo opportunities, including a chance to take a picture next to a large Mary the elephant statue. There is also a one-of-a-kind handmade miniature train engine that guests enjoy photographing.

Following the July 3 reopening, the museums will remain open daily. For more information about hours of operation and admission prices call (423) 743-9449.