Press release from Mars Hill University, shared Aug. 30.

Les Reker, director of the Rural Life Museum at Mars Hill University, prepares for the “Interwoven” exhibition. Photo courtesy of Mars Hill University.
Les Reker, director of the Rural Life Museum at Mars Hill University, prepares for the “Interwoven” exhibition. Photo courtesy of Mars Hill University.

MARS HILL — Mars Hill University has announced plans to reopen its Rural Life Museum, after a seven-year hiatus, with a new exhibition entitled, “Interwoven: Coverlets, Ballads, and America’s Discovery of Madison County Folklife.” The public is invited to attend a grand reopening celebration on Sept. 28, 2013, from 2-5 p.m. Food, drink, and live music by popular local musicians Roger Howell and Joe Penland will be provided. A ribbon-cutting program will be held at 3 p.m.

“Interwoven” tells the story of the Allanstand Cottage Industries, developed by Presbyterian missionary Frances Louisa Goodrich. Allanstand formed the beginnings of what would become a great revival of handcrafts in Madison County and would eventually lead to the creation of one of America’s oldest and most renowned craft associations, the Southern Highland Craft Guild.

The exhibition examines the influence that Allanstand had on the lives of the women who participated in its projects and traces the ways that work to promote craft traditions was linked to musical preservation efforts of the period. Some of the Allanstand Cottage Industries weavers and their families featured in the exhibition made valuable contributions to the ballad collection of English folklorist Cecil Sharp when he visited the region.

“Interwoven” also explores a variety of processes used in the creation of woven pieces—especially coverlets—including carding, spinning, dying, and weaving.

Some of the weavers and ballad singers who will be featured in the exhibition include: Ann Minerva Haire Shelton, weaver; Aunt Polly Shelton, weaver and ballad singer; “Granny Banks” (Ealy Franklin Banks), spinner of flax and ballad singer; Louisa Payne Lamb, weaver; Elmeda McHargue Walker, and her sisters, Martha Matilda and Sarah Elizabeth McHargue Nelson, master weavers.

The Rural Life Museum has been closed for repairs since 2006 and reopens now with funds provided for building renovation and final exhibition preparations by a collaborative grant arrangement between the North Carolina Department of Transportation and Madison County, as well as from the Janirve Foundation, the Marion Stedman Covington Foundation, and the Madison County Tourism and Development Authority (TDA). Presenting Sponsor of the Grand Reopening Celebration and exhibition is the Madison County TDA.  Wells Fargo Bank is a Heritage Sponsor.  The Southern Highland Craft Guild loaned items from its permanent collection for the exhibition.

Now, with its expanded, professionally designed space, the Museum is poised to present an array of high quality exhibitions about Southern Appalachian culture and history, serving students and adults from Madison County, Southern Appalachia, and beyond.

The Rural Life Museum is open daily (except Mondays) beginning Sept. 29, 2013, from 1-5 p.m. and by appointment. It is located on Rt. 213, in Montague Hall on the campus of Mars Hill University. Mailing address: Box 6706 Mars Hill University, Mars Hill, North Carolina, 28754. Admission is free. For more information or for group tours, please call (828) 689-1400, or visit the museum website:

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Angie Newsome is the executive director and editor of Carolina Public Press. Contact her at (828) 774-5290 or e-mail her at

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