New Asheville Museum of History will open Fall 2023
For Immediate Release:
April 20, 2023
Contact: Anne Chesky
Asheville Museum of History will open this fall, fulfilling decades-long efforts to have a museum in Asheville that tells stories of the mountains, a region with a rich and diverse – and sometimes misunderstood – past.
The museum is being established by the Western North Carolina Historical Association, a group that has promoted regional history for more than 70 years, and will be located in the Smith-McDowell House at 283 Victoria Road adjacent to Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College.
The historic house, dating to approximately 1840, was operated by the WNC Historical Association as a house museum for many years. It has undergone extensive repairs and renovations during the past two years and will now provide gallery spaces for permanent and changing exhibits as well as programs and other meetings. Guided, behind-the-scenes tours of the historic house and grounds will also be available to visitors.
Anne Chesky, a noted museum director, historian, and writer, is Executive Director of Asheville Museum of History and WNC Historical Association.
Ralph Simpson, president of the museum and association, praised Chesky for her leadership during the renovations and transition from a house museum to a history museum that tells a much broader history of Asheville and Western North Carolina. “Anne knows the history of Western North Carolina, both as a long-term resident and scholar. She also is sensitive to telling a broad history that represents the diversity of people who have shaped our region over time.”
“Asheville Museum of History will reflect this sensitivity in its exhibits and programs,” Simpson said. “The museum is designed to appeal to longtime residents, newcomers, and visitors, and to engage people of all ages, including children and young adults.
Chesky said, “We believe that in learning about our region’s past, we can better understand our present and prepare for our collective future. We have spent the last three years planning for this museum and are now working to integrate more traditional methods of historical education and interpretation with new, innovative techniques to engage visitors and better present our history to the public. It’s an exciting time to be a part of this organization.”
She credits the board of trustees’ foresight and dedication to history education for making the museum a reality. She also notes that opening the Asheville Museum of History would not have been possible without the help of grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, NC Humanities, Institute of Museum and Library Services, American Association of Museums, American Institute for Conservation, the Preservation Society of Asheville and Buncombe County, and ArtsAVL. Over the past several years the staff and trustees have also participated in the year-long Collections Assessment for Preservation and Museum Assessment Program – Education and Interpretation.
Funds provided by a bequest from Virginia McDowell Colwell, a descendant of the original owners of the house, have allowed recent restorations to occur throughout the house, and include a new roof, upgraded HVAC systems, plaster repairs, exterior and interior painting, restroom updates, and accessible parking. New lighting, gallery design, and professional exhibitions will make the space more suitable for fulfilling its mission of education.
One feature of the museum will be a permanent and interactive timeline exhibit that will give visitors a broad overview of our regional history using stories, photographs, and artifacts.
For more information, visit ashevillehistory.org.