Skip to main content

Made in Appalachia: Beyond Cabins, Crafts, and Coal

Artifacts and their stories, selected from the Appalachian Studies Teaching Collection to explore Appalachian material culture beyond its stereotypical inclusions.

About This Guide - Exhibit Project

This guide is based on the "Made In Appalachia: Beyond Cabins, Crafts, and Coal" exhibit/collections project produced during summer/fall of 2013 for the main gallery of the Loyal Jones Appalachian Center at Berea College.  Student Curatorial Associate Joey Shephard did most of the initial research and artifact selection. Student Curatorial Assistant Caroline Hughes did the artifact photography and produced this guide in fall 2013.  Student Curatorial Associate Matt Heil served as collections registrar.   Christopher Miller was the supervising curator.  Student Curatorial Associate Kathryn Dunn completed additional editing in 2015.

All artifact and specimen images Copyright Berea College 2013, 2014.

LJAC Artifact Guides

The Appalachian artifact collections are held by the Loyal Jones Appalachian Center at Berea College. For information or access the Curator Christopher Miller.  Explore more of our collections using the guides below.

Curator

Christopher Miller
Contact:
Berea College CPO 2196
Berea, KY 40404-2196
859-985-3373
Website / Blog Page

What kinds of things do you think are made in Appalachia?

Stereotypes don’t just apply to people. If asked to think of products from Appalachia, people are inclined to imagine objects that are rustic, quaint, homespun, or simple, but many things made in the region break this stereotype.  This website highlights many examples.

Challenging the Stereotypes of Appalachian Material Culture

       

During the summer of 2013 a student curator and I challenged ourselves to fill the Loyal Jones Appalachian Center exhibit cases with artifacts that were not:

  1. Objects from the isolated mountain cabin homestead experience,
  2. Handicrafts made in the region, nor
  3. Objects from coal mines or coal camps.  

This proved to be an interesting exercise in several ways:  

First, it was not difficult.  The material world of Appalachia is filled with many kinds of artifacts.  We simply had to broaden our framework and consider what people were making in factories, inventing in laboratories, and taking from the ground besides coal.  We had to look at ways that Appalachia was actively participating in American and global life.  When we did, the possibilities seemed endless.

Second, we were still under the shadow of coal.  While we purposefully omitted objects directly connected to coal mining and coaltown life, much of the remainder of Appalachian material culture is still touched by coal, oil, and natural gas.  Many of the objects we identified, such as automotive antifreeze, glass marbles, nuclear fuel, women's lingerie, and even camera film, are connected to coal through its byproducts, derivatives, or simply by abundant cheap energy.  

Third, we met diverse people within the Appalachian experience.  Artifacts, by definition, are connected to people.  When we broadened the range of artifacts we considered, we broadened the groups of people we encountered, including African American slaves in the salt furnaces, Flemish and French glassworkers, English and German chemists, and the working women of the Oak Ridge facility.   

Use the tabs above to explore some artifacts from Appalachia besides cabins, crafts, and coal.

Artifacts in this Exhibit

          

           

                 

             

              

                  

                 

              

            

               

           

      

All artifact images Copyright Berea College 2013.

Are all those things artifacts?

Yes, all those things are artifacts.  An artifact is anything made, altered, or used by human beings.  It does not have to be old or valuable.  Artifacts even include things like the houses, fences, and a human-altered landscape.  

Explorations using artifacts are called material culture studies.  Human lives are filled with artifacts.  We can learn a lot about people, their lives, and the places they live and work by looking at the artifacts.  Sometimes the artifacts tell us things written sources and memories do not.