“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” — George Santayana

I’m no famous philosopher but my opinion has always been that you can’t know where you’re going until you know where you came from. The best way to find that out is to take advantage of our local museums.

Last week, I spoke with several volunteers affiliated with the Cades Cove Museum and the Blount Count Historical Museum on “Museum Row,” 1004 and 1006 E. Lamar Alexander Parkway, Maryville. The topic was the Heritage Festival and Civil War Encampment that will take place April 20-22 on the grounds of the Thompson-Brown House, where the Cades Cove Museum is located, but I also got an update on what’s happening at the Blount County Museum from volunteer Peter Pisani.

Both museums will be open during public hours for the Heritage Festival and Civil War Encampment, and Pete also pointed out that the Civil War exhibit at the county museum is still up and ready to inform. It’s a fantastic exhibit and ties the national events to what happened right here in Blount County. You’ll learn a lot about that tragic time in our history by meandering through and checking it out.

Pete told me about some other exhibits at the museum, too.

“There’s a 1982 World’s Fair and a small Alcoa exhibit,” he said, and also mentioned the Model Railroaders’ train exhibit. “It’s almost finished. You can run two trains on there without a problem. It’s something fun for the kids to look at.”

The Ludvik Burian photo exhibit is still up. Burian, a 1914 graduate of Maryville College, photographed scenes on and off the campus. His family donated 135 glass negative plates to the museum in late 2014 and the photos on display were created from some of these.

New exhibits are in the planning stages, as well.

“We’re working on a horse and mule saddler and leathers exhibit,” Pete said. “We received a couple of saddles and some bridles. We just got blinders and bridle for a working mule. It’s in fairly good shape but I’ve got to clean it up.”

The museum has recently received three World War II American Red Cross newspapers that were sent to prisoner-of-war families. “I never knew the Red Cross did that,” Pete said. “They were anonymously donated. There’s information in those papers such as maps of the military and civilian internment camps that were in Korea, China, Japan and islands in the Western Pacific, and photographs of package receipts from prisoners in different stalags in Europe. People don’t think about those kinds of things. We always think about the POWs but what about the families? This is the sort of information the Red Cross provided for them.”

The museum is planning to add some evening events for the summer. Details have not been finalized, but when they are, you can read all about them in The Daily Times.

All our museums, not just the two mentioned here, can use volunteers and financial support. Check them out, give them your support and discover what happened in the distant and not-so-distant past – you might be surprised at what you find out.

Contact Linda Braden Albert with story ideas at LindasInkyfingers@ comcast.net.

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