Explore the story of the textile industry in Western North Carolina through the Swannanoa Valley Museum & History Center’s (SVM’s) new exhibition Beacon Blankets: The Mill. On display through November 2, the multimedia exhibit covers the history of Beacon Manufacturing Company, a New England textile company that migrated to Swannanoa during the Depression.
“One reason I think it’s important to tell this story is because the mill played such a large role in shaping the life of the Swannanoa Valley,” says Beacon documentary filmmaker Rebecca Williams.
Beacon was once the largest blanket manufacturer in the world and today many Beacon blankets are collector’s items. The exhibit highlights several aspects of the company’s history, including its controversial use of the term “Indian Design” when advertising its blankets, workers’ striking and unionizing efforts, and the lives and culture of the Swannanoa community. These topics are explored through interpretive panels, historic footage, textile displays and children’s activities including looms for weaving doll-size blankets.
“North Carolina has been home to hundreds of textile mills and mill villages over the last 150 years,” says SVM director Anne Chesky. “While we focus on Beacon, the exhibit really speaks to a larger history of mills and manufacturing in our state.”
Swannanoa Valley Museum & History Center is located at 223 West State Street in Black Mountain. The exhibit is open Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. through November 2, and by appointment. A $5 donation is suggested for admission. Members, students and children under 18 are admitted free. Learn more at SwannanoaValleyMuseum.org.