It took 21 people less than three hours to install the traveling Smithsonian Institution exhibit at the Bankhead House and Heritage Center on Wednesday.
The exhibit, which is sponsored by the Alabama Humanities Foundation as well as the Smithsonian, officially opens to the public today and will remain in Walker County through Saturday, Aug. 6.
Journey Stories is divided into six chronological sections: One Way Trip, Pushing the Boundaries, Across the “Great Desert” to the West!, Railroads Span the Nation, Accelerated Mobility and Our Expanded World.
Through art, text and audio pieces, the exhibit illustrates that Americans have been going somewhere since the beginning of the nation’s history.
“We have a unique freedom and a demand to move. We expect it. We feel it’s part of our rights,” said Tiffany Ruhl, a curatorial assistant for the Smithsonian Institution.
Journey Stories is based on the America on the Move exhibit that is housed at the National Museum of American History in Washington D.C.
It is part of the Museum on Main Street program, which is designed to share quality exhibits with rural Americans while also inspiring community pride and revitalizing local museums.
Ruhl said the Bankhead House and Heritage Center is an example of a perfect host site. The facility was built by William B. Bankhead in the 1920s and has been restored in recent years.
“This place is coming alive again. It’s an incredible space now, and people have an opportunity to learn about its history,” Ruhl said.
Journey Stories is made possible by a partnership of the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES), the Federation of State Humanities Councils and state humanities councils such as the Alabama Humanities Foundation.
Thomas Bryant, director of programs for the Alabama Humanities Foundation, said he believes Jasper was the correct choice to be the first stop for Journey Stories in Alabama this year.
“I’m really impressed with what Jasper has done to launch this exhibit. They have set a high bar, and I think they have inspired a lot of great ideas for the other hosts,” Bryant said.
Ruhl said she is also pleased by the effort that local officials and volunteers have put forth for Journey Stories.
“We have high expectations, but we think they are going to meet them all,” Ruhl said.
Representatives from the other five host sites were in Walker County on Wednesday to see the exhibit put together.
Carol Savage, community initiatives director for the Walker Area Community Foundation, said those who had not been to Jasper before left with a positive impression of the area.
“I think they all enjoyed the time they spent here,” Savage said.
Journey Stories will remain at the Bankhead House through Aug. 6. The center will be open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is free.
Special events are also planned for each Saturday until the exhibit closes.