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Celebrating Appalachian Culture: Mountain Heritage Center

By Joshua Polk and Amy Williams

About the Mountain Heritage Center

The Mountain Heritage Center is, according to Education Associate Peter Koch, “like a closet” with dusty storerooms full to the brim with local artifacts. According to their web site, their mission is to “connect people with local history and culture, build bridges between the university and wider community and serve as a resource for cultural heritage organizations in the region.” The center currently has a collection of over 10,000 artifacts which include agricultural implements, logging tools, woodworking tools, textiles, transportation equipment, pottery, quilts and a variety of other pieces. The center maintains three permanent exhibits and various temporary exhibits throughout the year to showcase these artifacts. They also have a “Kid’s Corner” which provides education opportunities for local schoolchildren.


The center started as a way to catalogue the local Appalachian culture. It began in the 1930s when the History Department began collecting artifacts from local estates. As the collection grew, it was decided that these artifacts should have a permanent, larger space where they could be viewed by the public. Then-WCU Chancellor H.F. Robinson made this happen in the late 1970’s when he allocated funds for the construction of the museum.

Volunteer involvement

The opportunities for service learning are varied, and they offer experience in a wide range of interests.  Volunteers may assist with educational programs (good for education majors), exhibition development (good for arts and sciences or industrial technology majors), publications (good for graphic arts majors) and research on data and exhibition topics. Volunteers are assigned tasks based on their interests and abilities, and training is required for each area of interest. Scheduling is flexible, but volunteers are required to work a minimum of four hours per week.

The Mountain Heritage Center also hosts several events which present extra opportunities for volunteer involvement. The Mountain Heritage Festival is an annual event, held on the last Saturday of September, as a showcase for local crafts and traditions. Activities include live entertainment, over 150 vendors of food, arts and crafts and various games and competitions. The Center also offers a series of bluegrass concerts on a regular basis. Volunteers are needed during these events to sell tickets, man booths and set up tables and chairs.


The Mountain Heritage Center is located on the ground floor of the H.F. Robinson Administration Building, which is located at the main entrance of campus, behind the roundabout. The on-campus location makes it an ideal volunteer opportunity for students with limited transportation.


You may find more information at the Mountain Heritage Center web site, www.wcu.edu/2389.asp. If you have any further questions, contact the Education Associate, Peter Koch, at (828) 227-7129 or pkoch@email.wcu.edu. His office hours are between 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. Monday – Friday. You may also contact the center at the following mailing address:

Western Carolina University
Mountain Heritage Center
Cullowhee, NC 28723

These profiles were created by the students in Mary Adams's English 303 (spring 2010) class