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This new exhibition presented by the Asheville History Center will explore the power, prevalence and persistence of the Appalachian hillbilly stereotype from the late 19th century to the present day.  The exhibit will take a unique approach by focusing on photography featuring the people of the region, some of them stereotypical images, combined with poetry and short prose pieces that question and challenge these stereotypes.  The exhibition will be divided into five sections and will explore issues related to:  Religion, Music, Arts and Crafts, Moonshine and Ignorance/Backwardness.   A number of three-dimensional objects and artifacts reflecting mountain traditions will be shown in the exhibit as well. Hillbilly Land will be on view through December 31, 2014, during regular visitor hours at the Asheville History Center at the Smith McDowell House.
Dr. Dan Pierce, curator of the exhibition said, “I have a love/hate relationship with the Hillbilly stereotype; hating the way that people look at me when they hear my accent, but loving playing the hick, the rube. Using the rich photography and literature of the region, the Hillbilly Land exhibition explores the complex nature of this very old and remarkably resilient image.”
Many of the early photographers in Appalachia came from outside the region and reflect the fascination with the region and the people who live in its coves and hollows.  Early photographers included in the exhibition are Bayard Wootten and Doris Ulmann. Contemporary photographers include Rob Amberg, Tim Barnwell, Don Dudenbostel, Benjamin Porter and Ralph Burns. The writers featured all have deep roots in Western North Carolina.  They include the late Jim Wayne Miller, Fred Chappell, Robert Morgan, Michael McFee, Kathryn Stripling Byer, Ron Rash, Wiley Cash, Wayne Caldwell and Jane Hicks.
Hillbilly Land was curated by Dr. Dan Pierce, Historian and History Department Chair at UNC-Asheville.  Additional research for the exhibition has been contributed by Jim Stokely, son of North Carolina writer, Wilma Dykeman; Gene Hyde, Head of Special Collections and University Archives at UNC Asheville and Erica Locklear, Associate Professor of Literature and Language at UNC Asheville.  Thomas Rash, Dr. Gordon McKinney and Dr. Richard Graham have assisted with the exhibition planning and programming.


Storytelling on the Front Porch
Asheville Storyteller, Wallace Shealy 
on Saturday, August 23, 2014
4:00-6:00 pm

The Asheville History Center-Smith McDowell House will present a very special event on Saturday, August 23, 2014, from 4:00 - 6:00 pm on the front porch of the historic Smith McDowell House at 283 Victoria Lane, Asheville, NC.
This storytelling event is presented by the History Center in conjunction with their current exhibition entitled Hillbilly Land: Myth and Reality of Appalachian Culture.

Saturday's storyteller, Wallace Shealy, was declared the "Southeast Bold-Faced Liar Champion" in early 2010 by the Storytelling Arts Center of the Southeast.   In an article written by the Tribune, the reporter noted, "It doesn't matter if he is recalling a tale from his childhood, telling a story based on the Good Book or spinning a yarn, you will be delighted listening to him stretch the truth all out of proportion."

Mr. Shealy is the current President of the Asheville Storytelling Circle. He has been involved for many years with the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, Tenn.

In addition to the presentation, participants will have the opportunity to tour the Hillbilly exhibition and enjoy light refreshments.  The History Center President, Dick Graham said, "A large shaded porch on a summer afternoon....what a great spot to enjoy a great storyteller."

This event is open to the public. Reservations for the program are requested so seating is available for all those who attend.  The fee for attending is $5.00 per person and members of the Western North Carolina Historical Association may attend free of charge.  Reservations can be made by calling 828-253-9231 or by emailing   

Thursday, September 11, 2014
"Day of Caring"
10:00 am - 3:00 pm

Day of Caring is an annual event organized by Hands On Asheville (United Way) to pair volunteers with nonprofits for a one-day service project.  Extra workers allow nonprofits to undertake bigger projects than they would otherwise be able to accomplish.  Historically, we have used the Day of Caring to spruce up our period rooms and hallways.  Volunteers in the past have enjoyed the day and found it surprisingly enjoyable.  And, it is an opportunity for our volunteers to handle and care for beautiful objects and treasures in the collection.

This year the Asheville History Center teams up with volunteers from Mission Hospital in addition to our regular volunteers.  Everyone is welcome.  All cleaning supplies and equipment will be provided.  Lunch will be provided for all volunteers as well.  Please let us know if you can join us for this day of fun and friendship.  Let us know if you can come by calling 828-253-9231 or by emailing 

Saturday, September 20, 2014
Crafty Historian
with Education Coordinator, Lisa Whitfield
10:30 am - 12:30 pm

Please join Lisa Whitfield for another in the series of monthly Crafty Historian Events on September 20, 2014.  This particular Crafty Historian event is designed for both adults and children.  Participants will make a "Shekere" (shack-eh-ray).  A Shekere is a beaded gourd that is used as a percussion instrument by shaking and thumping.  Each gourd must be prepared before the event.  All gourd makers need to contact Education Coordinator, Lisa Whitfield, on or before September 15 to make a reservation and to set a time to pick up a gourd at the Smith McDowell House. You may call 828-253-9231 or email  Instructions will be provided for cleaning, cutting and preparing the gourd.  The fee for this event is $15.00 and will be due when the gourd is picked up.

Although its origins are West African, today the shekere is found in the Americas and Caribbean as well.  The calabash or gourd (as it is commonly known in the United States) is a functional creation of nature with a wide variety of uses and traditions in cultures around the world.  It grows on a vine not unlike squash. Some varieties grow on bushes and trees.  Historically, gourds were used as a container for water, and still is an essential utensil in many parts of the world. Often they are used as birdhouses.


Saturday, September 13, 2014 – 2:00 pm
Myth and Misconception of Mountain Dance Presented by Phil Jamison from Warren Wilson
Manheimer Room at the Reuter Center on UNC-Asheville campus

Thursday, October 2, 2014 – 7:00 pm
Religion and the Hillbilly Stereotype Presented by Brian Cole
First Baptist Church Chapel

October 18, 2014 – 2:00 pm
Arts and Crafts of Appalachia
Presented by Becky Anderson Founding Director of Hand Made in America
Anna Fariello, Associate Professor, Western Carolina University

Manheimer Room at the Reuter Center on the UNC-Asheville campus.

November 13, 2014 – 7:00 pm
"Thunder Road" and the Economics of Moonshine Presented by Sheriff Van Duncan
The Carolina Theater

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