From Maryville College

Courtesy of the Daily Times, Maryville, Tennessee

African-Americans relied on songs and symbols to communicate the locations of the Underground Railroad.

The explosion of the SS Sultana in 1865 resulted in the greatest maritime disaster in United States history.


The Civil War was fought over more than slavery.

Many students learn these important facts about the Civil War in the classroom, but a group of Maryville College students had the opportunity to learn about the Civil War through a more “hands-on” approach.

Since late February, 24 students in Dr. Aaron Astor’s History 162: Introduction to the Study of History course have been helping curate a Civil War exhibit at the Blount County Historical Museum.

“Courage, Conflict and Chaos: Blount County Celebrates the Civil War Sesquicentennial,” opened Friday and is part of the area’s Civil War sesquicentennial events.

The exhibit, which includes Civil War artifacts, uniforms, flags, weapons, photographs and medical items, focuses on the Civil War as a whole, as well as the Civil War in Blount County, said Astor, assistant professor of history at Maryville College.

Project ‘awesome’

Junior Katie Ammons described the class and museum project as “awesome.” A history major, she has been thinking about becoming a museum curator after graduation.

“This class — seeing everything that goes (into curation) — just confirms that I want to do this,” Ammons said last week, when the class met at the museum to put up a timeline of the Civil War, hang displays and placards and arrange memorabilia in exhibits.

Astor divided the class into groups, and each group has been working on a specific element of the exhibit. Ammons’ focus has been “the Civil War Homefront.” Other students have tackled themes such as the Africa-American experience or Blount County soldiers.

Other groups have focused on artifacts, creating a Civil War timeline, plaque placement and creating captions for photographs.

Astor has been preparing the pre-Civil War portion of the exhibit that focuses on causes of the Civil War.

African Americans room

Maryville College sophomores Vinny Taylor and K.J. Bean said they were excited to get their own room in the museum — a room dedicated to the African-American experience.

Among the items in the room they helped curate are a rope bed, straw-bottomed chair made by a slave near Nashville, daguerreotype of an African-American woman and a map of the Underground Railroad in Friendsville.

Displays in the room explain the importance of the drinking gourd song and the monkey wrench quilt to slaves who wanted to escape to the North.

“It’s incredible how the slaves communicated all those details (about safe locations) without formally speaking,” said Bean, a student from Knoxville.

If you go

The Blount County Historical Museum, located at 1006 E. Lamar Alexander Parkway in Maryville, is open 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays and 2-4 p.m. Sundays. Admission is free, but donations are appreciated. For more information, contact the museum at 865-454-4526.