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“In Death Not Divided”

Civil War Tombstones and the Stories They Tell

November 12, 2012 to January 13, 2013
Rogers-Claussen Feature Gallery

The Civil War in East Tennessee was greeted by a flourish of speeches, bugles, and drums luring brave-spirited young men to march into war. But soon the glory and music faded, and these same young men were on the battlefield—bleeding, suffering, and dying.

The American Civil War resulted in an estimated 620,000 casualties. The Tennessee experience mirrored the national tragedy but on a smaller scale. Some 66,000 Confederates and 58,000 Federals were killed or wounded here, many more dying from disease and malnutrition. More battles were fought on Tennessee soil than in any state except Virginia.

Many of the best and brightest from an entire generation of young men were lost in the conflict or survived to face life with a missing limb. For too many families, there would always be ”an empty chair.”

Research introduces us to these young men. Through letters and diaries and other accounts, we come to know each as a person, not a statistic. We realize that these are not stories from a novel or movie but real people and real events.

This exhibition of “stories in stone” represents only a minute slice of the region’s Civil War experience.

Cherel Henderson

Exhibition design and installation:
Adam H. Alfrey, Michele MacDonald, Jessica Copeland, Denise Alfrey

Special thanks:
Becky Darrell, Namuni Hale Young, Duay O’Neil, Earl Hess, Stephanie Henry, Jessise Tipton, Matt Lakin, Gerald and Sandy Augustus, Paul Ogle, Doris Campbell, Caneta Gentry, Natasha Cass, Dot Kelly

Dan MacDonald, Scott MacDonald

“In Death Not Divided”—Civil War Tombstones and the Stories They Tell is a companion project of the East Tennessee Historical Society’s Tennessee Civil War Sesquicentennial legacy program, “Honor Be to Their Memory”—Burial Places of East Tennessee Civil War Soldiers.

Common People in Uncommon Times

The Civil War Experience in Tennessee

November 12, 2012 to January 13, 2013
Rogers-Claussen Feature Gallery

Common People in Uncommon Times: The Civil War Experience in Tennessee, the official traveling exhibit of the Tennessee Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission, focuses on how the American Civil War impacted the lives of Tennesseans through personal stories of some of the participants. Their tales represent a diverse array of personalities — Confederate soldiers, Union sympathizers, African-Americans, gallant women — whose sagas illustrate a land divided.

“Tennessee, being geographically centered between the North and the Deep South, was destined to be the focal point of the Civil War,” explains Myers Brown, the exhibition’s curator and the Tennessee State Museum’s curator of extension services. “The state became a major battlefield, supply center, transportation hub, and invasion route for both Union and Confederate armies. The war disrupted and impacted the people of Tennessee in ways that are almost unimaginable.”

Almost 187,000 Tennesseans served in the Confederate armed forces, while more than 50,000 served in the Union army, including some 20,000 African-Americans. Confederate Tennesseans fought in every major battle east of the Mississippi River, from Gettysburg to New Orleans, forming the backbone of the largest army in the western theater, the Army of Tennessee. Whether Union or Confederate, the soldiers’ stories are individual and varied, including boys from the mountains and aristocrats from the Delta.

The Tennessee home front, especially the rural areas, suffered immensely during the war. Crops and farms were destroyed and livestock confiscated. Towns and cities faced the uneasy and unfamiliar aspect of occupation by Union or Confederate armies. The exhibition explores the home front through the stories of people like John Fielder, a store keeper in Henderson County; Kate Carney, a defiant secessionist in Murfreesboro; and Christopher Alexander Haun, a noted potter from Greene County.

Photographs and archival materials highlight several different African-Americans and their experience both on the home front and the battle front. Profiled individuals include Allen James Walker, who escaped slavery and joined the 7th U.S. Heavy Artillery; Samuel Lowry, a free black who returned to Nashville to serve as a chaplain; and Laura Ann Cansler, who worked to educate former slaves in Knoxville.

The exhibit  also presents Tennessee’s unique story among former Confederate states during Reconstruction and illuminates the Volunteer State’s significant role in the manner in which the Civil War was remembered by post-war generations.

This pictorial narrative of personal struggle and endurance during the Civil War is presented on 10 graphic panels taken from the Tennessee State Museum’s collection of photographs and artifacts from the era, as well as from other collections across the state.


Molded by Hand, Hardened By Fire

A Special Exhibition of Wood-Fired Pottery by Peter Rose

May 16, 2011 to October 30, 2011
Rogers-Claussen Feature Gallery

An Australian potter preserving East Tennessee traditions

On Saturday mornings at least twice a year, a community gathers around Peter Rose’s wood-fired kiln in northeast Knox County. It is a ritual that is not uncommon to the South, a celebration of the kiln’s opening, a chance to see and possibly purchase direct from the potter a molded piece of clay that has been dramatically transformed by days of wood firing.

Australian by birth, Rose came to East Tennessee in 1985 by way of Japan and England. Four years later when Rose set out to build his own wood-fired kiln, it was these ceramic cultures—and the advice of a visiting Korean potter—that shaped the final structure. The kiln was completed in 1992, and Rose was ready to begin firing, ready to begin melding his past, multi-cultural experiences with the traditions of Southern folk potters.

Today, Rose continues to advance the wood-fired pottery tradition in East Tennessee, as seen in the utilitarian and sculptural pieces on view in the gallery above. The video below explores additional aspects of Rose’s life and work, while following one jug from being molded by hand to being hardened by fire.

Molded by Hand, Hardened by Fire: The Wood Fired Pottery of Peter Rose


Curator: Adam H. Alfrey

Design and installation: Adam H. Alfrey, Michele MacDonald

Photography: Dan MacDonald



Videographer and editor: Douglas D. Mills

Producer: Adam H. Alfrey

Related Resources:

Peter Rose Ceramics

Visit Rose’s website to see more examples of his work, learn more about his career, and discover upcoming events

Russell Briscoe, 1899-1979

Images of Home and Heritage

October 19, 2009 to February 7, 2010
Rogers-Claussen Feature Gallery
Russell Briscoe’s paintings reflect the work of both historian and artist. His attention to detail and accuracy and his use of color give us a very special and unique glimpse of our area’s past.
Steve Cotham, manager of the Calvin M. McClung Historical Collection, Knox County Public Library

Welcome to the Russell Briscoe art collection, a legacy for generations. The artist produced 75 known paintings in 22 years, from about 1957 when he began to paint seriously until his death in 1979. Images of Home and Heritage records 70 of the paintings.

Briscoe’s paintings capture the spirit of times long past. They are visual history that spans 189 years of life in Knoxville and East Tennessee. The collected works depict landmarks and events, both public and private, from Smoky Mountains to Gay Street, from battlegrounds to churchyards, from trolleys to trains. Minute details, meticulously drawn, show a draftsman’s hand. Painstaking brushstrokes, applied in vivid colors, reveal a heart deeply connected to home and heritage.

His work is respected among artists for its skillful execution, and among scholars for its historical accuracy.

Positive Reviews

Briscoe’s collected paintings were exhibited only once in his lifetime. In April 1972, the University of Tennessee Department of Art exhibit featured 25 Briscoe originals in McClung Museum Gallery. The work was warmly received and lauded for its artistic merit. Exhibits after his death sponsored by the Dulin Gallery and by the Knoxville Museum of Art (KMA) elicited more excitement for the Briscoe collection.

Arts and antiques columnist Joe Rosson wrote a review of the 1987 KMA exhibit, A View of His City: Paintings by Russell Briscoe. His words eloquently summarize Briscoe’s art.

Briscoe’s paintings present a personal view of local history as seen through the rainbow tinted glasses of nostalgic adulthood. From this perspective, Knoxville is a beautiful place full of trains, trolley cars and turbulent street scenes that gladden the heart and lift the spirits while they instruct us on the particulars of our past.

Only in the depiction of the Civil War battle scenes do we see the gray, ominous cloud of conflict obscuring the artist’s otherwise sunlit summary of Knoxville’s earlier days. In Briscoe’s hands, even an event like the Gay Street fire of 1897 reverberates with positive values such as excitement and heroism rather than terror and tragedy.


Briscoe began painting in earnest in 1957 when his wife, Deas, gave him oil paints and brushes for his 57th birthday. He set up his easel in the corner of the family room at home.

Briscoe was faithful to historical records, including photographs and postcards, and his own careful observations of existing historic sites. But his inspiration came from deeper resources—memories of a happy childhood and his favorite family stories.

He was born on November 5, 1899, and reared in the historic Fort Sanders neighborhood near the University of Tennessee, close to extended family, close to historic downtown Knoxville, and close to the train stations that fascinated him.

Triumphs and a Singular Tragedy

Briscoe joined the Marines in WW I. While stationed in Washington D.C. he met Deas Adams. They married in 1923. A son, Russell Briscoe Jr., was born in 1925. A daughter, Peggy, was born in 1929. The family made their home on Terrace Avenue in Knoxville, near the University of Tennessee.

During the Great Depression in the 1930’s, Russell and Deas started a successful wooden toy company from their home and named it Bristoy. At the same time, Briscoe worked for J.E. Lutz Insurance Company. He rose to executive vice president in the firm. Over his long business career, he was a board member for several enterprises, notably Southern Railway’s Cincinnati, New Orleans, & Texas Pacific division and the Knoxville Utilities Board of Commissioners. Civic and cultural organizations continuously sought him out to hold leadership positions.

Tragically, in 1950, Air Force pilot Russell Briscoe Jr. was killed flying a combat mission at the start of the Korean War.

Final Triumphs

In the mid 1960’s, Russell and Deas designed and moved into a new home on Cherokee Boulevard in Sequoyah Hills. By then, their daughter, Peggy, had married Robert Rochelle, a scientist for NASA, and lived in Maryland.

Briscoe retired from J.E. Lutz in 1971. More and more often he was invited to lecture at community meetings on the history of Knoxville represented in his paintings.

He continued painting until the day of his death. In the early morning hours of January 18, 1979, after signing his last painting, Russell Briscoe suffered a fatal heart attack. He was interred in Old Gray Cemetery on Broadway in Knoxville. Deas died in 1995 and her grave is beside his. Daughter Peggy died in 2005.

Joe Rosson’s 1987 review gave voice to a special dimension of Briscoe’s artistic achievement.

Briscoe’s paintings are a compilation of childhood memories, exhaustive research, imagination and yes, wishful thinking. Many close observers will notice that all the overhead transmission lines in his pictures seem to vanish into thin air after running only a few inches from the poles.

This, I believe, is wish fulfillment on the part of the artist. If he had his way, such signs of an advancing modern civilization would vanish from Earth altogether, and we would be left with circus parades, ice cream parlors and gentle memories forever.

Presenting Sponsor:

Live! On Air! And In Your Living Room

The First 20 Years of Television in East Tennessee

November 2, 2013 to February 23, 2014
Rogers-Claussen Feature Gallery

In celebration of the 60th Anniversary of television going live across East Tennessee’s air waves, visit the Museum of East Tennessee History for a chance to re-live the programs and personalities from the first 20 years of television.

Presenting Sponsor

Woven of Wood

East Tennessee Baskets, 1880-1940

March 17, 2014 to June 1, 2014
Rogers-Claussen Feature Gallery

Imagine doing away with shopping bags, plastic buckets, and manufactured storage tubs of today and depending instead upon baskets. You would quickly recognize the essential role that these hand-woven containers of wood played in bygone days. Baskets were some of the most functional and creative possessions in everyday life.

During the past year, the East Tennessee Historical Society has worked to document the traditional basket makers of our region. Materials and construction details have been recorded for baskets surveyed. For those baskets where the maker’s identity is known, family stories and photographs have also been collected. Woven of Wood, East Tennessee Baskets, 1880-1940 highlights selected examples from this survey.

Woven of Wood: East Tennessee Baskets, 1880-1940


Guest Curator:
Carole Wahler

Basket Survey Committee:
Carole Wahler
Susan Borden
Michele MacDonald

Related Resources:

Billy Ram Sims: Basket Maker

As a tie-in to Woven of Wood, the work of contemporary basket maker Billy Ray Sims is also on display. Now based out of Alabama, the Tennessee native has worked in a wide range of styles from South Carolina sweetgrass to New England black ash pack. He now weaves most exclusively in white oak styles. Sims produced the video, A Measure of the Earth, featured on this page, for the Smithsonian American Art Museum.



Reading Appalachia

Voices from Children’s Literature

June 16, 2014 to September 14, 2014
Rogers-Claussen Feature Gallery

Walk through the pages of your favorite storybook in this groundbreaking exhibit on Appalachian children’s literature.

Sporting life-size characters from Appalachian children’s books, this exhibit looks at the seminal titles from the late 1800s through the modern story of Appalachia. You’ll feel like you’re walking through the pages of a storybook. Children can stand eye-to-eye with characters from Journey Cake HoA Mountain RoseWhen Otter Tricked the RabbitWhen I Was Young, and others.

More than 50 books are available to touch, read, and explore. The exhibit also includes representative clothes and toys from Appalachia, music, and hands on activities that bring the subject to life for kids of all ages. Children are encouraged to try on masks of storybook characters and find themselves in a story. They can create their own story of childhood set in Appalachia and hear the voice of old time storyteller Ray Hicks along with some of their favorite authors and illustrators. Each panel includes an interpretation of the text from a child’s perspective.

All are invited to walk into the pages of a story of childhood in Appalachia.

Why children’s books? Why Appalachian children’s books?

Few things capture our hearts and senses more vividly than children’s books. They ignite our imaginations and help bring structure and understanding to a developing mind. As children, we learn much about the world through the pages of a book. Our stories and books shape and inform us. They guide us into adulthood. And they help define us.

Perhaps more than any other region, Appalachia has captured our nation’s imagination. It’s a land where the blue smoke of the mountains, the self-sufficiency of life in a holler, and the singsong of an enthralling storyteller come together in a near mythic culture. Appalachia is a land about which stories are told.

What does it mean to be a child of Appalachia?

Appalachia is a rich and beautiful land steeped in tradition and open to change. It is home to countless storytellers and stories without end. Both its lushness and its rockiness teach us to make our way in the world, but Appalachia never leaves us.
—Henry Louis Gates, Encyclopedia of Appalachia

Growing up in a land of inspiring beauty and oftentimes devastating destruction, how do our children see themselves? How do we see our children?  In our mountains and in our stories, we hear the tales of diverse people whose voices are both personal and universal.

By examining seminal titles published over the decades since the 1800s, we hope to show the fuller picture of our region’s literary heritage and how this literature tells the story of childhood in Appalachia.

“Our Stories Are Important Stories”: George Ella Lyon


Reading Appalachia: Voices from Children’s Literature is based on the research of Jamie Osborn.

Exhibition committee: Adam H. Alfrey, Mary Pom Claiborne, Miranda Clark, Casey Fox, Holly Kizer, Michele MacDonald, Lisa Oakley, Jamie Osborn, Kayti Tilson

Special thanks: Appalachian Center—Berea CollegeArchives of Appalachia—East Tennessee State University, Lee Carpenter, Jeff Conyers, Steve Cotham, Julie Danielson, David Dotson, Stephanie Faulkner, Roberta T. Herrin, PhD, Silas House, George Ella Lyon, Anne Moore, Barry Moser, Nashville Public Library, Clinton Tatum, Sarah Webb, Ken Wise

Related Resources:

Meet the authors, read a poem by George Ella Lyon, browse book lists, and find out more about Reading Appalachia by visiting Knox County Public Library’s website

Tell us your story! Share your Appalachian childhood story

Learn about Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library


December 19, 2014—April 4, 2015
Morrison Public Library
Morrison, Tennessee

Early 2016
Reece Museum
East Tennessee State University
Johnson City, Tennessee

Tool Kit for host museums and public libraries


Made in Tennessee

Manufacturing Milestones

October 4, 2014 to April 4, 2015
Rogers-Claussen Feature Gallery

Today’s Tennesseans, while not totally abandoning their agricultural heritage, have moved into an age of advanced technology and global competition symbolized by electronics, chemical production, and automobile manufacturing. Tennesseans may wear cowboy hats and listen to the Grand Ole Opry, but at work they are more likely to produce automobiles or sophisticated machinery than to till a small farm or make country crafts…


Based on the research of Amber Clawson, Ph.D. candidate, Middle Tennessee State University, and James E. Fickle, Professor, Department of History, University of Memphis

“Made in Tennessee” PSA (produced by Alcoa)

Presenting Sponsors

Celebrating a Life in Tennessee Art

Lloyd Branson, 1853-1925

November 7, 2015 to March 20, 2016
Rogers-Claussen Feature Gallery

Native geniusBoy artist. These and other descriptors were often applied to Lloyd Branson, who grew from a precocious sketcher on his family’s East Tennessee farm to an accomplished artist best known for portraits of Southern politicians and depictions of early Tennessee history. For the first time, Branson is the subject of a major retrospective, which chronicles his life, works of art, and legacy as one of the most influential figures in Knoxville’s early art circles. Please join us in celebrating Branson’s life and art!

Presenting Sponsor:

Come to Make Records

Knoxville’s Contributions to American Popular Music

April 16, 2016 to October 30, 2016
Rogers-Claussen Feature Gallery

In 1929 and again in 1930, Brunswick Records’ Vocalion label set up a temporary recording studio at the St. James Hotel in downtown Knoxville and invited locals to come make records. These old-time, jazz, blues, and gospel recordings added Knoxville’s voice to American popular music and inspired the next generation of country music stars. In an exciting new exhibition, the East Tennessee Historical Society and the Tennessee Archive of Moving Image and Sound present a first-time look at the impact of these recordings and the region’s contributions to American popular music. The exhibition features an array of artifacts, videos, sound recordings, and photographs showcasing East Tennessee’s diverse musical heritage.

Come to Make Records explores Knoxville’s growth in the early 20th century, the importance of fiddling contests in generating fans and driving record sales, the role of Sterchi Bros. in exposing local talent to a national audience, and examines why Knoxville was selected for the recordings. The exhibit offers a closer look at the St. James Hotel, the site of the Knoxville Sessions, an overview of the local talent that arose from the sessions, and a look at the next generation of artists, such as Chet Atkins and Roy Acuff.

The exhibit includes a display demonstrating 130 years of recorded sound from the wax cylinder to the iPod, a re-creation of the St. James Hotel room where the Knoxville Sessions took place, Roy Acuff’s fiddle, Cal Davenport’s banjo, a Bairdola, and an assortment of other instruments. Other artifacts featured are original records from the Knoxville Sessions, a painting by Howard Armstrong, and Carl and Pearl Butler’s performance suits, designed by Nathan Turk. Special video presentations include a film produced by East Tennessee PBS on the Knoxville Sessions, a look at how 78 rpm discs are made, rare footage of Knoxville Sessions artists, and recordings of Roy Acuff, Uncle Dave Macon, and Carl and Pearl Butler.

The exhibition by the East Tennessee Historical Society is made possible through a collaboration with the Tennessee Archive of Moving Image and Sound and the Knox County Public Library and is sponsored by Clayton Homes with support by East Tennessee PBS. The exhibit is also a supporting component of the Knoxville Stomp Festival of Lost Music to be held May 5-8 in celebration of the Bear Family Records release of The Knoxville Sessions, 1929-1930:  Knox County Stomp. Previous acclaimed releases from the Bear Family include the Grammy-nominated The Bristol Sessions and The Johnson City Sessions. The exhibit is on view at the Museum of East Tennessee History in Knoxville through October 30, 2016.

The Museum of East Tennessee History is open 9:00 am to 4:00 pm, Monday through Friday; 10:00 am to 4:00 pm, Saturday; and 1:00 pm to 5:00 pm, Sunday. Museum admission is $5.00 for adults, $4.00 for seniors, and FREE for children under 16.  Each Sunday admission is FREE to all and ETHS members always receive FREE admission.

Come to Make Records: The Knoxville Sessions, 1929-1930


Based on the research contained in The Knoxville Sessions, 1929-1930: Knox County Stomp by Dr. Ted Olson and Tony Russell, published by Bear Family Records

Guest curators: Bradley Reeves and Eric Dawson, Tennessee Archive of Moving Image and Sound, Knox County Public Library

Volunteers: Denise Alfrey, Ryan Caylor, Dan MacDonald, Katherine McPhaul, B. J. Wiseman

Special thanks: Lisa Horstman


Related Resources:

To learn more about the Bristol Sessions, visit the Birthplace of Country Music Museum

Presenting Sponsor