Exhibit offers glimpse of Americana

By Keith Strange

July 30, 2014

A new exhibit at the Mount Airy Museum of Regional History has one goal in mind: To bring back memories of a simpler time.

Entitled “Main Street Memories,” the exhibit hearkens to a time when Main Street was the center of community life, according to museum Director Matt Edwards.

“There was a time when Main Street was the heart and soul of every small town in America,” he said. “It was the central business district, a gathering point for people from outlying rural areas and the epicenter of social life.”

Edwards said the exhibit is designed to be a look back at how small town life in Mount Airy compares with the idea of Main Street, U.S.A.

“We wanted this exhibit to be a way for us to explore our local history in the context of the image that a lot of the visitors to the community carry in their head,” he explained. “We wanted them to be able to see how their hometowns compare with the fictional Main Street created by Hollywood.”

In addition, Edwards said the exhibit, which has been well-received by those visiting the museum, gave him a chance to pull out some of his favorite items.

Take, for example, the shoe shine chairs that formerly sat in City Barber Shop, now Floyd’s Barber Shop.

“This is my very favorite piece that we have,” Edwards said as he stared at the chair. “The stories it could tell.”

Edwards said the Main Street exhibit is less about text than objects and memories.

“The permanent exhibit here at the museum tells a story that is illustrated with objects, and over the years, as many museums do, we collect additional objects that are pertinent to our region’s history but may not directly fit the story we tell with our permanent exhibit,” he said. “Changing exhibits like we do allows us to go back and display those items for the people in the community so they can see some of the cool stuff we have behind the scenes.”

The exhibit even features a place for visitors to record their favorite Main Street memories.

“This is kind of the American Pickers or Antiques Roadshow of exhibits,” Edwards said with a laugh. “There is little developed written content, but it’s object and image heavy.

“It’s a chance to see some artifacts from this community’s past that hopefully will elicit some memories and stories from the visitor,” he added. “We want people to come in, bring the kids and grandkids, and tell them those stories. That’s what this exhibit is about.”

Keith Strange can be reached at 336-415-4698 or via Twitter @strangereporter.