Cherokee museum looks to the future

fr cherokeemuseumThe Museum of the Cherokee Indian has been having some trouble with its exhibit light and sound system lately, but that’s not too much of a surprise. After all, that electrical system has run constantly since its installation in 1998. But a $250,000 grant from the Cherokee Preservation Foundation, with an equal match from the tribe, will give the exhibits a fresh start worth $500,000.


“The foundation came through for us,” said Bo Taylor, museum director. “The tribe has come through for us.”

The exhibits take visitors through 10,000-plus years of Cherokee history, moving from the Paleo period to the present. Thousands of lights, hundreds of sounds and dozens of special effects combine to tell the story in a way that was state-of-the-art back in 1998, but technology has changed and the years have taken their toll on the system. 

“This is important to do to make sure they can continue the high-quality work they have always done for Cherokee culture and history,” Annette Clapsaddle, CPF executive director, said of the upgrades.

Recently, the entire system went down, meaning that the museum had to close until the electronics could get up and running again. 

“It’s time for an upgrade,” said Barbara Duncan, education director. 

Museum personnel are excited about the technology overhaul, but the foundation’s spring grants will help other facets of the museum as well. The grants include $25,000 to help the museum with a book publishing program that Duncan refers to as “ambitious” and “like a university press,” and $20,000 will go toward forming a long-term business plan. 

For Taylor, that business plan is an exciting investment. 

“It gives you parameters to work with,” he said. “If you have no expectations, they will meet them, but if you have expectations and you set them high, people will meet them.”

Taylor, who has worked for the museum for the past 15 years, took the helm as director back in November, and he has plenty of ideas for how to carry the museum into the future. He’s looking forward to coming up with a cohesive plan for how to develop the museum into the best resource it can be, to Cherokee and non-tribal visitors alike. 

“We view [the museum] as a major partner,” Clapsaddle said. 

Expanding hands-on education opportunities and creating extra space for a traveling exhibit that will offer visitors something new from year to year are top priorities for Taylor, but the business plan will be a collaboration of all involved, including the Cherokee Historical Association, which received a $60,000 grant for a master plan. 

“There will be a synergy between us and the CHA,” Taylor said. 

The main thing is to have a vision.  

“If you’re just living from day to day, your growth is going to be slow,” he said. 

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