With help from MTSU’s Center for Historic Preservation, Rutherford County has a place to preserve its past for future generations.
Area leaders cut the ribbon Nov. 21 on the new Rutherford County Historic Courthouse Museum, a five-room space inside the courthouse in Murfreesboro for artifacts and exhibits that explain the county’s development.
Rutherford County Mayor Bill Ketron, an MTSU alumnus, first approached CHP Director and Tennessee State Historian Carroll Van West about the idea in the summer of 2019.
“When I stepped forward and asked him and tasked him with this job of putting a museum here in the historic courthouse, he didn’t hesitate,” Ketron said at the opening ceremony. Watch a short video from the ribbon-cutting ceremony above.
West developed a general outline, but the COVID-19 pandemic forced a postponement of work on the project in 2020.
“The exhibit outline focused on where the county had been significant statewide or nationally,” West said.
West cited such events as the time when Murfreesboro was the state capital, the Trail of Tears, the Civil War, the Commonwealth Fund and the medical history of the early 20th century, and Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s visit and address at Middle Tennessee State College in 1951.
“Then we filled in with key Southern history themes such as the early Native American history, the impact of slavery and the role of the enslaved, the railroad era, the development of the town square and its businesses, education growth, MTSU and arts and music,” West said.
The CHP designed and created the exhibit and provided an exhibit case and objects from collections at the Heritage Center of Murfreesboro. West said the partnership with county archives was invaluable, citing County Archivist John Lodl, an MTSU alumnus, and Mary Watkins of the African American Historical Society of Rutherford County.
CHP Program Manager Lydia Simpson and Assistant Director Antoinette van Zelm were the key players in the center’s efforts. West also praised Dr. E.C. Tolbert and his wife, Barbara, for donating objects that give the exhibit “real quality and permanence,” West said.
For more information, contact Simpson at email@example.com or van Zelm at firstname.lastname@example.org.
— Gina K. Logue (email@example.com)