JOHNSON CITY – Closed for repairs since 2011, East Tennessee State University’s Reece Museum will reopen next month with a renewed appearance and a renewed focus on regional art, history, culture and research.
The building, which housed ETSU’s library in the 1920s, has undergone an extensive two-year, $1.7 million renovation, including a new HVAC system that will allow the Reece to control the environment inside the building, which is important in preserving museum artifacts. Additional improvements include an electrical system upgrade, a new security system, energy-efficient windows that block ultraviolet light, an elevator, and Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant restroom facilities.
According to Theresa Hammons, Reece Museum director, the museum’s offices and collections were moved to ETSU’s Valleybrook Campus in Sullivan County for safekeeping during the renovation. While there, Reece staff focused on updating the museum’s database, organizing education outreach, and planning new exhibits.
The Reece Museum collection contains over 20,000 artifacts, including 19th century farming equipment, quilts, musical instruments and clothing from the early days of Johnson City. It also boasts a sizable art collection, including works from regional artists and such masters as Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dali.
The museum will reopen to the public on Tuesday, April 23, with four exhibits. “Vanishing Appalachia” uses photographs to examine fading aspects of Appalachian culture. “We Shall Not Be Moved,” a traveling exhibition from the Tennessee State Museum, examines the civil rights sit-in movement as it unfolded across Tennessee. Local artist Bill Bledsoe will exhibit 12 new paintings of the ETSU campus commissioned by the university, and the “Country Music in the Tri-Cities” exhibit will reopen with new artifacts and information on music from ballads to bluegrass.
A special reopening celebration will be held at the Reece Museum on Saturday, April 27, from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. The free public event will feature Katie Doman singing ballads at 11 a.m. and storytelling by Leon Overbay at 1 p.m.
The Reece Museum will have new hours upon reopening – Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 10 a.m.-4 p.m.; Thursdays from 10 a.m.-7 p.m.; and Saturdays from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Groups interested in visiting the museum should call ahead to make reservations for a tour.
During the week, visitors may request a pass from museum staff to park in the three spaces directly in front of the museum. On Saturdays, visitors may park in any available space without a pass.
Admission to the Reece Museum is always free, but donations are encouraged to help fund educational activities, outreach and temporary exhibits. The museum is also seeking volunteers for a wide variety of activities relating to research and the collection.
For more information, tour reservations, or special assistance for those with disabilities, call the Reece Museum at (423) 439-4392.