Bark Grinders and Fly Minders Tell a Tale of Appalachia

At his Tennessee museum, John Rice Irwin’s love for his mountain upbringing puts people in touch with a fast-disappearing way of life

The General Bunch house
The General Bunch house, which was originally located in the New River area of Anderson County, was the first log cabin to be acquired by Irwin, reconstructed, and put on display at the site that was to become the Museum of Appalachia. Wikimedia Commons

Last year, about 100,000 visitors exited off Interstate 75, near Norris, Tennessee, to stroll the grounds and view the beautiful restored buildings of the Museum of Appalachia. The museum is the result of one man's vision and energy. For more than 30 years, John Rice Irwin, Tennessee-born and bred, has traveled onto backroads and into remote hollows in search of the artifacts of Appalachian culture. In his travels, he has collected everything from butter churns to tools to vintage banjos and quilts. And he has created a living legacy for a unique region of rural America.

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