Museum of Appalachia faces uncertain future

March 31, 2008

One of the toughest challenges facing any non-profit organization is surviving its founder. The kinds of folks who create museums, schools, or institutes (or websites) are highly focused, driven, and relentless people. The same characteristics that bring life and success to their creations can make it difficult to hand over the reins of power to their successors or make the sometimes hard decisions necessary to keep the organization thriving.

Metro Pulse’s Mike Gibson has written a great article about the Museum of Appalachia in Norris and John Rice Irwin, its founder. The Museum is one of Tennessee’s treasures; Irwin was named a MacArthur Fellow, popularly known as the “genius” award. His Museum, however, is facing an uncertain future. Irwin has been subsidizing it for years, and now says he cannot write checks for much longer. Even if he could continue underwrite the Museum, he is 77 years old.

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