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MTSU needs public’s help in preserving Center for ...

MTSU needs public’s help in preserving Center for Arts history

Middle Tennessee residents, past and present, can help MTSU trace the evolution of one of Murfreesboro’s most popular downtown landmarks.

A livery stable, circa late 1880s, occupies the lot at the corner of North Church Street and what would become West College Street just off the Public Square in downtown Murfreesboro. The site would later house the Murfreesboro post office, Linebaugh Library and now The Center for the Arts. (Photo submitted by Teresa Prober, courtesy of Bill Jakes)

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., a block north of Murfreesboro’s Public Square.

Torren Gatson, a doctoral candidate from Wilmington, Del., says gathering citizens’ oral histories is the biggest challenge.

“Otherwise, we’re just interpreting a building,” says Gatson, the project’s official historian. “What gives that building meaning are memories.”

The plot went through several incarnations, including operating as a livery stable and as a law office, until the federal government bought it for one dollar in 1907 and built the city’s first federal building there.

Murfreesboro’s completed U.S. post office building at the corner of North Church and West College Streets downtown, constructed in 1909, is shown here in a circa 1920s photo. The building ultimately became the location for Linebaugh Library in 1963 and The Center for the Arts in 1995. (Photo submitted by Teresa Prober)

The post office was converted into the public library in 1963. After Linebaugh Library moved two blocks south to West Vine Street at its current downtown location, the College Street building reopened as The Center for the Arts in 1995.

Dr. Brenden Martin

Dr. Brenden Martin

Students involved in the project will make audio recordings of their interviews with participants for clarity and accuracy. In addition to gathering audio 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 accessible 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,” says 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,” says Caleb Knies, a doctoral candidate from Dale, Ind., whose role is project manager.

The Center for the Arts in downtown Murfreesboro is the community’s historic home for theatrical productions, musical performances, art exhibits, educational programs, lifelong learning and community activities all year. Click on this graphic to visit the center’s website.

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 says.

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.

To contribute memories, artifacts or images, or for more information, contact Martin at 615-898-2643 or brenden.martin@mtsu.edu, Prober at tap4j@mtmail.mtsu.edu or Knies at cck3a@mtmail.mtsu.edu.

— Gina K. Logue (gina.logue@mtsu.edu)


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