Red Bay ready to host traveling Smithsonian exhibit
RED BAY – The city of Red Bay is a little more than a month away from hosting one of the most prestigious exhibits to ever come through this region, and after 10 months of preparations, event coordinator Rosalyn Fabianke said plans are in the final stages.
Starting Sept. 14 and lasting through Oct. 25, Red Bay will be one of only six cities in the state of Alabama to host a traveling Smithsonian Institute exhibit entitled “The Way We Worked,” which showcases the role various jobs and industries have played in shaping America into the country it has become today.
The exhibit is part of the Museum on Main Street (MoMS) project, which is sponsored by the Alabama Humanities Foundation (AHF) and the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C.
The exhibit will be housed at the Weatherford Centre for six weeks, which will also be during the time the city will host their annual Founders Day Festival on Sept. 21.
During that six-week period, the exhibit will be open free of charge Monday – Friday from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. and on for designated special events on Saturdays and Sundays.
Thomas Bryant, the grants director for the Alabama Humanities Foundation, said the purpose of the MoMS project is to place an emphasis on the smaller towns in the state who might not always have access to resources such as museums and exhibits.
“We have worked with the Smithsonian for the past 12 years on the Museum on Main Street project, and it’s something that has had a positive influence on the communities who have hosted the project over the years,” Bryant said.
“The Smithsonian has scaled down some very popular exhibits so they can be placed in small towns. The exhibits include photographic panels with artifacts and audiovisual components that keep with ‘The Way We Worked’ theme.”
Fabianke met with around 60 community volunteers on Wednesday to discuss the different aspects of the project and coordinate the final stages of planning.
“This is an exciting time because we are getting so close to finally having the exhibit here in our city after many months of planning,” Fabianke said.
“It is going to be a wonderful event and we are looking forward to hosting something that will be both educational and entertaining for our residents and residents across the region.”
In addition to the main “The Way We Worked” exhibit featuring artifacts and articles from the Smithsonian, there will be several other exhibits throughout the downtown area that will coincide with the overarching theme.
Also at the Weatherford Centre will be the “Music Works” exhibit featuring a rare display from the Alabama Music Hall of Fame and the “Theatre Works” exhibit featuring storytelling and a local movie documenting many interesting facts about the city and the way the city of Red Bay has worked over the years.
Other exhibits will include “Quilt Works” at the Weatherford Library featuring a quilt exhibit and a quilt made by Alabama’s First Lady Dianne Jones Bentley; “History Works” at the Red Bay Museum featuring artifacts and an abundance of history from the city’s past; “Red Bay Works” in the Red Bay Museum annex featuring stories about Red Bay’s businesses and industries; “Church Works” in downtown Red Bay adjacent to the Red Bay Hotel featuring a recreated historical church and group performances; “Art Works” in downtown Red Bay adjacent to the Red Bay Hotel featuring original artwork by Red Bay High School students in the form of murals representing the first local industries; “Wellcare Works” at the Red Bay Hospital Wellcare Center; and “Farm Works” at Cypress Cove Farm featuring farm skills demonstrations.
Fabianke said those who visit “The Way We Worked” exhibit and all the other exhibits could take a self-guided tour through the town using a map.
At Wednesday’s meeting, Fabianke pointed out that a color-coded set of “train tracks” painted on the roads would serve as a guide to get patrons from one exhibit to the next.
But if visitors to the exhibit would rather have a guide, a group of volunteers called “Doodlebugs,” named after Red Bay’s first train, would serve as guides to take visitors to all the different venues.
“We are doing our best to make sure this is well-planned out and runs as smoothly as it possibly can,” Fabianke said.
“We want to make sure everyone who visits the exhibit has a good time and gets the most our of it.”
Fabianke said there was a separate group of volunteers called “docents” who would serve as stationary guides or educators inside “The Way We Worked” exhibit at the Weatherford Centre.
“The docents will provide information about the Smithsonian exhibits and will be there to answer guests’ questions and further educate them on the importance of different jobs and industries,” she said.
With such an educational aspect, Fabianke said the exhibit would be the perfect field trip for local school groups of all ages.
“This isn’t just something that high school students would understand,” she said. “It’s something students of all ages would appreciate and learn from.
“And not just students, but adults, too. This is something that can be enjoyed by any and everyone.”
Bryant has been working closely with Fabianke on the project and he said at Wednesday’s meeting that Red Bay was exceeding every expectation he had.
“Launching in Red Bay was the right thing to do,” Bryant said.
“This is one of those great little towns that survived and is still thriving today, and it will be great to showcase that through this exhibit.
“Rosalyn and all the volunteers have done an outstanding job coordinating this events and it really will be something special for the people of this county and all the visitors who come out.”
The exhibit grand opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony will officially take place on Set. 14 at 10 a.m. at the Weatherford Centre.
For information about reservations for field trips and group tours, call 256-356-4445. Information about the exhibit can also be found at www.redbaysmithsonian.org.