The program, which is part of the Smithsonian’s Museum on Main Street partnership with state humanities councils, illustrates the role of movement in American history.
The bulk of the exhibit will be located at the Bankhead House and Heritage Center. Other area landmarks, such as the Alabama Mining Museum, will also be included on an extended tour.
Jasper will be the first of six stops that “Journey Stories” will make in Alabama next year. The city will also host a training session for representatives of other Alabama communities who will be hosting the exhibit next year.
Susan Perry, grants writer for the Alabama Humanities Foundation, said Jasper was chosen as a site for “Journey Stories” because of its extensive history in transportation.
“Each community will tell their own story, and we felt like Jasper had the diversity to take it from Native Americans to the Bankhead Highway and more contemporary tones like why people are moving back to Walker County,” Perry said.
Paul Kennedy, president of the Walker Area Community Foundation, said Walker County is a natural place to discuss journey stories because of its ties to several national politicians who made migration possible.
Congressman Tom Bevill chaired the House committee that approved funding for the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway, and Congressman Carl Elliott authored the Library Services Act that provided federal funding for bookmobiles in 1956.
Sen. John H. Bankhead sponsored the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1916, which provided millions of dollars in federal funding to improve rural roads.
The Bankhead Highway, the first national road to connect Washington, D.C., and San Diego by way of Jasper, was named in his honor.
“So all the Okies who took off from Oklahoma to California to find work in the Dust Bowl were riding on the Bankhead Highway,” Kennedy said.
Dwight Eisenhower’s experiences on the Bankhead Highway as part of a military convoy in 1919 encouraged him to establish the Interstate Highway System during his presidency.
Kennedy said he is expecting thousands of people in north Alabama and several surrounding states to be interested in the “Journey Stories” exhibit.
Kennedy said it will give local residents a chance to not only see an exhibit of the Smithsonian’s quality but also learn about the mission of the Bankhead House and Heritage Center.
“This is our big introduction that we’re here and we’re going to try to do great things for north Alabama,” Kennedy said.
The “Journey Stories” exhibit will also visit Arab, Alexander City, Eufaula, Mobile and Marion between June 2011 and April 2012.