Middle Tennessee residents, past and present, can help MTSU trace the evolution of one of the city’s most popular landmarks.
Anyone who remembers working in or patronizing the building where The Center for the Arts is located when it housed the U.S. post office or the Linebaugh Public Library is invited to share memories with MTSU graduate students.
The “Essentials of Museum Management” class taught by Dr. Brenden Martin of the MTSU Department of History will combine these remembrances, as well as facts and photos, in a permanent exhibit to be constructed on the first floor of the center, which is at 110 W. College St.
Torren Gatson, a doctoral candidate from Wilmington, Del., says gathering citizens’ oral histories is the biggest challenge.
“Otherwise, we’re just interpreting a building,” said Gatson, the project’s official historian. “What gives that building meaning are memories.”
The lot went through several incarnations, including a livery stable and a law office, until the federal government bought it for one dollar in 1907 and built the city’s first federal building there.
The post office was converted into the public library in 1963. After the library moved to its current downtown location, the building opened as The Center for the Arts in 1995.
Students involved in the project will make audio recordings of their interviews with participants for clarity and accuracy. In addition to gathering memories, the students are digging into archives for photos, floor plans and any other artifacts they can find.
Other parts of the project will include an audio tour, Braille pamphlets and adherence to universal design standards that will make the exhibit understandable to people of all abilities.
The center’s exhibit will be about 20 feet long by 15 feet wide, working around certain permanent structures.
“We’ll also create a website with more information not in the physical exhibit available online,” said Teresa Prober, a master’s degree candidate from Louisville, Ky., who is in charge of public relations for the project.
“This is job experience, not a theoretical project on a computer,” said Caleb Knies, a doctoral candidate from Dale, Ind., whose role is project manager.
Martin says this kind of class will prepare students for the way museums are run, with employees having individual assignments while working together in teams.
“My whole approach is experiential learning, which is theory in conjunction with the real world,” Martin said.
Rutherford County Historian Greg Tucker has provided some unique help. His father, Burney Lee Tucker, was the architect for the renovation of the building’s transition from post office to library.