Smithsonian exhibit to open Saturday in Red Bay
RED BAY – Citizens on the west end of the county have been working for almost a year now in preparation for the traveling Smithsonian Institute exhibit that will finally be open to the public this Saturday.
A grand opening and ribbon cutting ceremony will be held for the 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 grand opening will take place at 10 a.m. at Community Spirit Bank’s Weatherford Centre in downtown Red Bay followed by museum tours from 10:30 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Red Bay is one of only six cities in the state of Alabama to host the traveling exhibit, which is part of the Museum on Main Street (MoMS) project sponsored by the Alabama Humanities Foundation (AHF) and the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C.
Robbie Davis, the MoMS project director with the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C., was in Red Bay on Monday to help event coordinators make their final preparations, and he said Red Bay has done an outstanding job planning this event.
“I just want to congratulate Red Bay. You are a model [for other towns],” Davis told city officials.
“This is definitely the mark of a lot of hard work. [Being able to host the Smithsonian exhibit] is a competitive process is a competitive process and you won this opportunity. My hat is off to all of you for the incredible amount of work you have done.”
Event coordinator Rosalyn Fabianke said all that has been accomplished over the past 11 months has been the result of teamwork.
“This has truly been a team effort and all the citizens who have volunteered have had fun working together to put this on,” Fabianke said.
“We are excited and we are ready to show off this wonderful exhibit to all of our citizens and all of our visitors from across the area.”
The exhibit will officially open this Saturday and be open through Oct. 25.
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 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.”
The exhibit includes 86 black and white as well as color photographs from the National Archives’ holdings spanning the years 1857-1987; large photo murals; a video showing a variety of workplaces; and audio segments that feature workers talking about their experiences with certain jobs.
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.
Event officials said a color-coded set of “train tracks” painted on the sidewalks 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, will serve as guides to take visitors to all the different venues.
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.”
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.