The Western North Carolina Historical Association (WNCHA) has made two of its exhibits available virtually: Hillbillyland, which explores myth and reality in Appalachian culture, and 1918 vs. 2020, which examines the 1918 influenza epidemic in Western North Carolina and parallels it with the current COVID-19 pandemic. “Since we are currently closed to the public to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, digitizing our past exhibits allows us to continue to fulfill parts of our mission as a nonprofit focused on preservation of Western North Carolina history and culture,” says Anne Chesky Smith, executive director of the WNCHA. “It also makes these wonderful exhibits, which have been curated by some excellent and very knowledgeable historians, accessible to a far larger audience than they ever have been before, even when the exhibits were actually mounted in our galleries.”
Hillbillyland was curated by UNCA’s Dr. Dan Pierce in 2014. “This exhibit translates really well to a digital format because the exhibit itself is primarily made up of Appalachian literature and images,” says Smith. “So the digital visitor can access some really wonderful excerpts from novels written by authors like Wiley Cash and Wilma Dykeman as well as entire poems on topics like Appalachian religion and moonshining.”
The digital exhibits will be permanent and easily updatable, which Smith sees as a silver lining to the museum’s physical closure. “We can even make changes and additions in response to visitor feedback,” she says.
Visit WNCHistory.org to see these exhibits and more.