Did you know that Alexander Key, author of the beloved science-fiction novel, “Escape to Witch Mountain,” lived in Macon County for a while? Or that famous English children’s author Frances Burnett enjoyed her time in western North Carolina so much she set one of her novels, “Louisiana,” here?
You can learn about these and other authors influenced by North Carolina’s highlands in Mountain Gateway Museum & Heritage Center’s newest exhibit, “Inspiration in the Mountains: Writers & Western North Carolina.” The exhibit opens Friday at the museum, 24 Water St., Old Fort.
Developed by the museum’s historical interpreter Brittany Bennett Joachim, a down east native and English major who moved to western North Carolina four years ago, “Inspiration in the Mountains” features more than a dozen authors who drew inspiration for their craft from the misty Blue Ridge, the Great Smokies, and other mountain ranges in the region.
“Western North Carolina has produced a variety of writers, from fiction to non-fiction, children’s books, storytellers, poets and playwrights,” Joachim said. “This exhibit focuses on only 13 authors from the region, but it celebrates the work of locally celebrated writers, such as Bob Terrell, a long-time columnist for The Asheville Citizen-Times, as well as internationally known authors, such as Asheville native Thomas Wolfe and Pulitzer Prize-winning author and poet Carl Sandburg, who made his final home in Flat Rock.”
Other authors included in the exhibit are:
• Gloria Houston, an Avery County native and Appalachian State University alumna who taught at Western Carolina University and became an internationally known educator and author of bestselling children’s books, including “The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree” and “My Great-Aunt Arizona.”
• Margaret Morley, an internationally recognized expert on agriculture and beekeeping, who is perhaps best remembered as a children’s author, illustrator, and photographer. “The Carolina Mountains,” Morley’s only work for adults that featured her own photography, was the result of her travels through western North Carolina at the turn of the 20th century.
• Josefina Niggli, a Mexican-born Anglo-American poet, playwright and novelist, whose first novel, “Mexican Village,” became a movie. After working as a writer for two Hollywood studios, Niggli taught English and drama for two decades at Western Carolina University, where she helped found the theater department. The university’s theater is named for her.
• Lloyd Arneach, a member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and expert storyteller, who has traveled across the United States, sharing stories about Cherokee traditions, his own personal experiences, and from contemporary and historical events. He is the author of “Long-Ago Stories of the Eastern Cherokee” and a children’s book, “The Animals’ Ballgame.”
Artifacts displayed in the exhibit include writing tools used by selected authors, as well as some of the books they wrote.
“Inspiration in the Mountains: Writers & Western North Carolina” will run through Jan. 5, 2020 at Mountain Gateway Museum. The museum is open year-round, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, and from 2 to 5 p.m. Sunday. Admission is free.
For more information about the exhibit, contact the museum at 828-668-9259 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
A regional branch of the North Carolina Museum of History in Raleigh, the Mountain Gateway Museum & Heritage Center is the westernmost facility in the N.C. Department of Natural & Cultural Resources’ Division of State History Museums. Nestled at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains along the banks of historic Mill Creek in downtown Old Fort, the museum uses artifacts, exhibitions, educational programs, living history demonstrations, and special events to teach people about the rich history and cultural heritage of the state’s mountain region, from its original inhabitants through early settlement and into the 20th century.