Keeping the Circle Unbroken: Trouble at the Carter Fold

April 13, 2008

My previous post looked at the difficulties facing the Museum of Appalachia, whose founder, John Rice Irwin, hopes to strengthen his creation before handing it off to his descendants. Now, from the Bristol Herald Courier, comes a sad story of strife at the Carter Family Fold. Seems that the board of directors of the Fold have voted Dale Jett, son of the late Jeanette Carter, off the board.

Jeanette Carter and her chow-chow. Photo by Larry Smith

The late Jeanette Carter

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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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NY Times features Museum of Appalachia

July 27, 2007

Nice piece in today’s New York Times Escape section on the Museum of Appalachia in Norris. The article leads off with a look at the famed collection of Appalachian buildings and artifacts, as well as a chat with John Rice Irwin, the founder.  Writer Keith Mulvihill recommends eating in Cumberland Gap, Tennessee at Webb’s Country Kitchen.

The piece wanders through Kentucky and Virginia and comes back into Tennessee, where Mulvihill discovers Jonesborough. He then comes to the Smokies, where he makes the mistake that so many writers do by claiming that more than nine million people visit the park annually. In truth, the Park Service counts nine million visits every year, not visitors. There’s a huge difference between the two.

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Photo of Museum of Appalachia courtesy Tennessee Department of Tourism

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