By Daniel Valles,
Assistant Museum Curator, Shelby Iron Works Park
On Saturday, 11th, October 2008, the Historic Shelby Association cut the ribbon and opened the newly renovated Museum. Our Association has completely renovated what had been a simple dark room with a handful of photos and signs into a breathtaking scene, featuring themed exhibits, professionally printed photos and informational signage, new track lighting, more than doubling the artifacts and contents, and working with interior design to make the room seem twice as large!
Shortly after the 2008 Spring Festival, I had the opportunity to present the Association with sketches and proposals for a complete Museum overhaul. Since then, I, along with others, have been working on building the exhibits, researching local history and ironworking, painting, developing signage, and bringing the Museum to a point where local school groups, organizations, and individuals could come and learn about what makes Shelby's history so important to our area and state.
I wanted to make the museum unlike other museums that young people are used to. Instead of seeing artifacts sitting in staid glass cases, I wanted the museum to be a time machine. When you step through the doors, you are walking through an entrance into the past. All of the exhibits are designed to take the viewer's mind into the past, where they feel as though they are stepping into the subject they are looking at. Whether you are transported to the living room of yesteryear, or visiting the Shelby Iron Works machine shop, the visitor leaves feeling like they have seen and experienced a piece of our history.
The opening day was busy! Countless visitors came through and expressed their surprise at the transformation. Most of them would be only a foot or two into the building, where they would just stop in amazement at the experience laid out before them. Entering through the barn-themed entryway, visitors chose to either start with the family and faith aspects of Shelby, or start learning from the industrial perspective of Shelby's history. Even with the large crowds, visitors still had ample room to move about, read signs, and move fluidly.
Many of the older visitors glowed about how they remembered certain aspects from their childhood, or excitedly pointed out people and places from their past to their grandchildren. Many of the younger people read with interest the science behind refining, seeing actual molds and tools laid out on the workman's bench before them. Civil War buffs read about Wilson's Raiders and the Shelby produced armor plating on the C.S.S. Tennessee. I thoroughly enjoyed conversing with some of the older folk from the area, as they shared with me many of their first-hand experiences from days gone by. It was encouraging to see their enthusiasm as I shared with them our plans for the future to bring in school groups and others to learn and experience local history.
The Museum is almost done; yet it will never be done. As additional funds come in, we wish to develop more informational signage and documentation, workshop curriculums, additional exhibit construction, as well as outdoor exhibits. Currently, we are now offering tours by appointment! A minimum donation of $3 per person will help defray our expenses. Contact us about special themes, presentations, or workshops that your group may be interested in. School groups, home school groups, scout groups, and others are encouraged to contact John Brasher at: 205-669-2465, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.