Boxes of artifacts and furniture are being moved back into the B. Carroll Reece Museum at East Tennessee State University following a nearly two-year, $1.7 million renovation project.
Teresa Hammons, museum director, said the entire 20,000-artifact collection and all the offices were packed up and moved out to the school’s Valleybrook Campus in Sullivan County for safekeeping during the renovations. Museum operations were conducted from that location until this past Thanksgiving.
While at Valleybrook, Hammons said museum personnel worked on community outreach like never before and planned several exhibits for when the museum opens again April 23.
The museum’s database has also been updated during the time the actual building was closed. For instance, the museum’s massive coverlet collection is now searchable via computer.
Renovations were originally only supposed to take until the fall of 2011 after beginning in May of that year but there were some delays.
Among the renovations was the installation of a new HVAC system that gives more control over the environment.
“The best way to preserve your collections and your artifacts and paintings is to have a regulated temperature and humidity environment,” Hammons said. “When you are renting exhibits from, say the Smithsonian, they require you to have certain temperature and humidity levels in your building. And they want proof of that, so we have to send them a record of what our average relative humidity has been over the past year, and the same with temperature.”
Hopefully this new environmental control system will lead to many new exhibits, she said.
Additionally, the building’s electrical system has been upgraded, as has all the lighting.
New windows prevent ultraviolet light from coming in and are also energy efficient. These windows also allow for better preservation of the artifacts.
A new security system with video technology will be accessible by public safety.
Americans with Disabilities Act requirements have been added to the bathrooms and an elevator has been installed.
The Reece Museum has been on campus since the 1920s, making it one of the first buildings constructed. It was originally a library. In 1965 it was renovated and converted into a place to hold the late 1st District Congressman B. Carroll Reece’s memorabilia and an art collection.
“It has needed renovation for a long time,” Hammons said.
Several months will be needed to bring back all the artifacts, which include Reece’s collection, items from the late 1st District Congressman James Quillen, agriculture implements from early 1800s, quilts and clothing from early days of Johnson City.
Art is prevalent at the Reece Museum, including regional artists and masters like Picasso and Salvador Dali.
When the museum does open in April there will be several exhibits for the public to see, starting with an exhibit by the East Tennessee Historical Society called “Vanishing Appalachia.”
“It basically talks about stereotypes within the region and puts them in a historical context,” Hammons said.
Topics included in the exhibit are moonshining, information about the Ku Klux Klan and religion.
Another exhibit coming in April is from the Tennessee State Museum called “We Shall Not Be Moved,” which looks at the civil rights movement in Tennessee.
The “Music in the Tri-Cities” exhibit that focuses on ballads to bluegrass in the Tri-Cities will also be available.
Local artist Bill Bledsoe has been commissioned by ETSU to create paintings of campus scenes. A series of 12 paintings should be ready in time for the museum to be reopened, Hammons said.
The schedule when the museum opens again will be 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays. On Thursdays, the museum will be open from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m.
The museum will also be open on Saturdays from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m.
“We’ve not been open on Saturdays in a very long time, and so when we reopen we’re going to try to be open on Saturdays and be a little more accessible to the public,” Hammons said.