Western Carolina University’s Mountain Heritage Center is unveiling new exhibits that highlight two big milestones that are happening this year – the 125th anniversary of the university’s founding and the 40th anniversary of WCU’s fall celebration of mountain culture, Mountain Heritage Day.
An exhibit titled “The Dearest Spot of All: Western Carolina University’s 125th Anniversary” showcases the development and growth of the university over the decades, with artifacts and memorabilia that tell the stories of the many dedicated individuals who shaped the institution into the multifaceted regional university that it is today.
The exhibit examines WCU’s relationship with surrounding communities and the development of its athletics program. On the lighter side, it also traces changes in student life with artifacts such as May Day costumes and vintage cheerleader and mascot uniforms. Other items on display include an array of athletics championship rings and the 2009 Sudler Trophy that was won by the Pride of the Mountains Marching Band.
“This exhibit is complemented by ‘The Cullowhee Idea,’ also on view at the Mountain Heritage Center, which focuses on WCU’s service to the region through the years,” said Pam Meister, curator at the museum.
The exhibit “Y’all Come, the Best Kind of Get-Together: 40 Years of Mountain Heritage Day” showcases the evolution of the festival. The event now known as Mountain Heritage Day began as Founders Day in 1974 to celebrate the inauguration of Chancellor H.F. “Cotton” Robinson. The day ended with a barbecue and square dance, and discussions about holding a similar event the next year. The celebration was called Mountain Heritage Day the following year and it is now held on the last Saturday each September.
The exhibit will highlight activities that always have been part of the festival and examine how the university and community come together to hold a celebration that draws tens of thousands of visitors from across the region to Cullowhee.
An opening reception for the exhibits will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday, June 12. The reception will be capped off with a presentation by university archivist George Frizzell, who will speak about the early years of Western Carolina and its growth from a high school to a statewide model of teacher training.
Both exhibits will be on display through Dec. 12. The Mountain Heritage Center is open to the public free of charge and is located on the ground floor of H.F. Robinson Administration Building. Daily visiting hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, with extended hours to 7 p.m. on Thursdays.
For more information about the museum’s programs and special events, call (828)227-7129 or visit http://mhc.wcu.edu.