Saturday, October 23, 2010

Price-Swift Makeover Planned

The historic Price Public Community Center and its companion, the Swift Museum are in for a makeover, one of the most extensive the Rogersville-Hawkins County community has ever seen.

"First, we're trying to upgrade the museum to bring it up to a 21st century-designed museum."

Price-Swift Executive Director Stella Gudger has applied for several grants to help with the renovations, and says, she and the museum-community center supporters have their work cut out for them.

""TVA has worked with us," she says. "They've done all the drawings, and they look nice. We're very excited about them and what they'll do for the museum. Eastman Chemical has given us 10-thousand dollars. Humanities Tennessee has also given us a grant of 10-thousand dollars."

With the grants, will also come a lot of work on the grass-roots level.

"People are really using the Price Public Community Center," says Mrs. Gudger. "It's hosted an art show and we're all just excited about that and the exposure it brought to the museum. We do want it to be a first-class museum."

Towards that end, Mrs. Gudger attended the National Conference of Black Museums, held this summer in Pittsburgh.

"It was wonderful," she says. "I got to do a lot of networking, talking to the right people and got to visit a lot of black museums to see what they were doing, and how successful they are. One of them, the August Wilson Cultural Center in downtown Pittsburgh was really nice."

"When I was working with Humanities Tennessee," Mrs. Gudger remembers, "they asked me 'why would people want to come back to the museum after visiting it the first time? Why would you want to spend $10,000 for a permanent exhibit?' I told them that it is very important that African-Americans do not lose their culture, in large cities and small communities like Rogersville, Tennessee. The people of Rogersville know the history of Swift College and what it means to the community, and that spirit needs to be kept alive. And Swift had a huge impact on the community outside Rogersville, too, ultimately all over the United States. Students from all over the country came to was a very elite college in the rural town of Rogersville. Most people who don't know the Swift history, are surprised by that."

And that begins the storyline that is the Swift Museum, and the Price Community Center is its backdrop.

""Hopefully with the grants," Mrs. Gudger says, "we'll start with telling the Swift-Price story in a timeline, which will not just bpictures and captions, but it will actually tell the story of the struggles that African-Americans had to go through, just to get a higher education."

"That's going to be our storyline, and I'm excited about that. Hopefully, Rogersville people and the surrounding communities will be, too."

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