Appalachian State University Student Revitalizes Old Appalachian Museum


Museums are a vital learning tool in any society.

They help people learn the history and culture of a country.

Sadly, not all museums get funding to continue operation, and many aren’t able to attract large crowds of visitors.

Carson Sailor, a graduate student of public history at the Appalachian State University, decided that those things would not happen to their local historical learning environment, the Hickory Ridge Living History Museum and the Horn in the West outdoor theater.

Horn in the West was built by John Lippard and some college students from the North Carolina State University’s College of Design some six decades ago, in 1952.

It is the oldest outdoor drama space that depicts Revolutionary War-era shows.

It is currently operated by the Southern Appalachian Historical Association, which is an organization that aims to preserve the history and culture in the Blue Ridge Mountain area.

The Hickory Ridge Living History Museum came a bit later, in 1980, to show the lives of the early settlers from Europe.

Both the theater and museum are located in Daniel Boone Park in Boone, North Carolina.

Patriotic Sailor

Carson Sailor had studied public history at Florida’s Flagler College, where he worked as a tour guide and consultant in the National Park Service and at the Ponce de Leon Hotel.

In St. Augustine, Florida, Sailor felt that he could do more by pursuing a master’s degree, so he went to Appalachian State University for his graduate studies because, according to him, the university had an impressive historical program.

Just a few weeks ago, Sailor and his colleagues opened the “History of the Horse Show” exhibit at the Blowing Rock Horse Museum.

Carson took an internship at the museum, and became the curator of the exhibit, which will run until July 24, 2016.

Sailor had also reached out to the organization managing the Horn in the West and the Hickory Ridge Living Museum, wanting to gain employment at a job that was relevant to his experiences and degree.

He was even willing to work as the museum’s janitor.

History Man

Now, Sailor is the executive administrator in charge of revitalizing the drama space and the living museum.

But the work is no joke, as Sailor also functions as both museum and theater director. He writes historical programs and fundraising events.

One of his plans is to expand the living museum’s hours, from six years to eight months a year (a move that was met with approval from the Horn in the West Board of Directors).

The drama group is also going to offer new positions to Appalachian students.

Sailor said that engaging Appalachian students, especially those in the public history department, was one of his main goals, so that these students would gain the experience and skills necessary to work on historical or cultural sites.

Three people have also been hired as historical interpreters and educators: graduating students Cameron Clark and Grayson Butler, and recent graduate Cole Holiday.

Sailor hopes to see a thriving living museum in five years, when the place can take on full-time employees and be up to date with the American Alliance of Museums’ Best Standards and Practices code.

Rob Clark admin staff managing editor

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