Group assessing Heritage Museum in McMinn County

Group assessing Heritage Museum in McMinn County

July 5th, 2011 by Randall Higgins in News

From left, McMinn County Living Heritage Museum Director Ashley Rush and curator Lisa Chastain talk with Dr. Michael Trinkley and Debi Hacker of the Chicora Foundation before an inspection begins of the museum's archives and collections.

Photo by Randall Higgins /Times Free Press.

ATHENS, Tenn. - The McMinn County Living Heritage Museum invited preservation experts to take a look at how the museum cares for its historic collections, including archived documents.

Representatives from the Chicora Foundation Inc. expect to have a report of recommendations and commendations in about two months. Chicora, a nonprofit organization, is based in South Carolina and does assessments for museums, libraries and other agencies in the Southeast.

Dr. Michael Trinkley, Chicora director, and Debi Hacker, education specialist for the foundation, were here late last week to examine the museum collections.

Museum Director Ashley Rush said the assessment visit was funded through a federal grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

"The nation's largest museums and libraries have a lot of resources," Trinkley said. "But for smaller museums, there's not a lot of help out there."

And it's those regional museums that hold much of the nation's history, Trinkley said.

But regional museums can become distracted from their education and community missions, Hacker said.

"We have to remember we are not the repository of last resort when clearing out the attic," she said.

Before the preservationists arrived, they already were aware of one of the museum's features - the website. They liked it.

"The writing is focused and clear," Hacker said.

Museum curator Lisa Chastain said her long-term goal is more public access to the archived, historical documents. Those papers are filed away for safekeeping. Whenever someone doing historical or genealogical research needs access, a volunteer or museum staff person must go and help the person find the material, she said.

The Chicora Foundation's report may be the first step toward that goal, she said. But that goal is still years away.

Contact Randall Higgins at or 423-314-1029.