KNOXVILLE Tenn. (WATE) — Those local and from out of town came to celebrate the life of the founder of the Museum of Appalachia, John Rice Irwin, on Sunday after he died in January at the age of 91.
He wore a lot of hats. He was an educator and historian in Anderson County. Eventually, he started collecting items, leading to his museum opening in 1969.
“He would see things in somebody’s backyard, or at an outhouse, and he’d say, ‘you know, are you interested in selling or parting these things?'” Elaine Meyer, Irwin’s daughter, said.
Collecting is soon what Irwin became known for. The items he collected and the stories behind them all came from southern Appalachia.
“You know we’re proud of our heritage here. We want people to know that people from Southern Appalachia are really great people,” Meyer said.
From the music to the history, Irwin impacted his community and it showed as many people gathered in celebration. Knowing of not only the history, but the stories of common people that could be found in his museum.
“He wanted to share those stories of the Appalachian people,” Meyer said. “Every life matters, every story, everybody has a story to tell.”