Mountain Heritage Center resumes full operation at library

The Mountain Heritage Center, Western Carolina University’s museum of Appalachian culture, is back at full operation after a summertime move from H.F. Robinson Administration Building to space at WCU’s Hunter Library.

The exhibit “Collecting for the Community,” an exploration of the diversity and variety to be found in Western North Carolina, is now on display in the museum’s new 1,500-square-foot gallery on the first floor of the library.

Visitors can access the Mountain Heritage Center from an outside door located at the left corner of the library building, from the perspective of a visitor coming from the Central Drive sidewalk. Temporary signage is in place now, but a new permanent sign and canopy will be erected soon, said Pam Meister, curator and interim director of the museum.

Mountain Heritage Center visiting hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, with extended hours until 7 p.m. on Thursdays.

The temporary relocation of Mountain Heritage Center exhibits and offices from the first floor of Robinson Administration Building to the library is an initial step expected to lead to the construction of a new WCU welcome center, which will include space for the museum. Also, plans call for the eventual relocation of the university’s Office of Admission, currently based in the Cordelia Camp Building, into space that had been occupied by the heritage center in Robinson Building.

The museum’s massive collection of stored artifacts will remain at Robinson Administration Building, but its main offices are now located in Room 240 at the library.

Meister said the Mountain Heritage Center lost considerable gallery space in which to display exhibits with the move, going from 5,000 square feet to 1,500 square feet, but the relocation has brought with it a big positive effect – an increase in student, faculty and staff visitation that is a byproduct of the high-profile location. “We are really excited about all the new opportunities for collaborations with WCU faculty and students,” Meister said. “We already have worked with several classes this summer where student feedback helped determine how we designed the new gallery space.”

“Collecting for the Community” will be on display in the main gallery into early spring, but the exhibit is designed so that artifacts can be changed out frequently to showcase different acquisitions and collections, she said. The exhibit also was built to accommodate demonstrations and hands-on activities. “We hope the frequently changing objects and activities will encourage people to stop by to see what’s new,” Meister said.

Aside from the main gallery, the Mountain Heritage Center also has display space on the second floor of the library, adjacent to the Office of Special Collections. About 200 feet of hallway is available for photographs and text panels, and there are two large exhibit cases. An exhibit currently installed in that area, “Photography of Lewis Hine: Exposing Child Labor in North Carolina, 1908-1918,” will be shown through Friday, Dec. 11.

In addition, the museum will be using two library exhibit cases in the first-floor hallway between Java City and the interlibrary loan office, Meister said. The exhibit “Pottery Traditions in Western North Carolina” will be on display there from mid-September through December.

Although the Mountain Heritage Center has moved, the museum will continue to sponsor public events in the auditorium on the first floor of Robinson Building, she said. The “First Thursday” old-time and bluegrass concert and jam session series for 2015-16 will kick off in the auditorium Oct. 1, and Sylva storyteller Gary Carden will host a “Liar’s Bench” program there Thursday, Sept. 17. Also, the museum will sponsor a “Haunted WCU Tour” on the historic hill section of campus starting in November. Other plans are in the works for a grand reopening event in the near future, Meister said.

Tours of the new Mountain Heritage Center facility are available for classes and community groups by contacting education associate Peter Koch at the main museum number, 828-227-7129. More information is posted on the museum’s website, mhc.wcu.edu, and Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/MountainHeritageCenter.