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Volume 26, Number 4 — April 2019

ETSU Reece Museum Closing for Renovations

April 14, 2011

JOHNSON CITY, TN In 2010 the Carroll Reece Museum at East Tennessee State University received re-accreditation by the American Association of Museums (AAM), the highest national recognition achievable by an American museum. Fewer than five percent of U.S. museums achieve this distinction. For some, such recognition might be a seemingly opportune time to "rest on (professional) laurels," but not for the Reece Museum.

With the highest standards of museum operations in mind, the Reece Museum will temporarily close its doors to the public to start work on a $1.5 million capital maintenance project beginning May 6, 2011.

This was one of only 39 projects approved by the Tennessee Board of Regents, ETSU's governing board, for capital maintenance appropriations for fiscal year 2010-11. Through those state-allocated funds, the 90-year-old building will receive a new HVAC system and an upgraded electrical system with more energy-efficient fluorescent and track lighting.

The museum's iconic palisade windows will be replaced with more efficient, custom-made windows to maintain the integrity of the original architecture. A new restroom will be added and an elevator will be installed to improve accessibility between the floors for visitors and staff.

"This project will be a benefit to the community," said Theresa Burchett, director of the Reece Museum. "For visitors, the gallery environment will be a more pleasant experience in ways both seen and unseen. Fresh paint, better lighting and a more polished look will be apparent upgrades. A better HVAC system that more efficiently and evenly distributes heated or cooled air will be one of the unseen benefits.

"For the museum's artifacts, the new HVAC system is a critical upgrade. A stable, climate-controlled interior remains an unshakable standard for most conservators. That standard influences many facets of a museum's operations beyond cost, including but not limited to accessions and storage.

"I think some people stereotype museums as places for old, dusty things," Burchett continued. "But that perception is a far cry from what happens in an AAM-accredited museum. Building and maintaining a foundation of trust between a museum and its constituents is a never-ending process."

While the capital maintenance project is under way, museum staff will be busy working with construction crews, evaluating and maintaining the permanent collection in an off-site location, reviewing policies and procedures, and realizing both short- and long-term goals for the museum's Web site (

Burchett said that improvements to the Web site will be unveiled later this year. These include a new design in keeping with the look of the overall ETSU Web site, features on recent acquisitions, and slideshows of special collections.

"Our goal is to ensure a Web site that better mirrors the Reece's exciting physical changes," Burchett said.

She added that the public may also keep up with the museum on Facebook, where regular updates will be posted about the capital maintenance project, seldom-seen artifacts, and the projected date for reopening the museum.

The Reece Museum began as a campus history project in the late 1920s. Its collection grew as part of the university's library, and in 1965, the collection was transferred to the museum's present location in the renovated building that had previously housed the art department. Today, the Reece is a division of ETSU's Center for Appalachian Studies and Services, a Tennessee Center of Excellence.

As one of the first museums in Tennessee to be accredited by the AAM, the Reece Museum is one of only 12 museums in the state to have that recognition, and out of the 781 accredited museums nationwide one of only 122 that are part of colleges and universities.

According to Burchett, AAM accreditation is a key component to building and maintaining public trust.

"AAM accreditation, or in our case, subsequent accreditation, is widely seen as a seal of approval that brings national recognition to a museum for its commitment to excellence," she said. "The AAM Accreditation Program was developed and is sustained by museum professionals, and reflects, reinforces and promotes best practices. What that means to the public is simple whether you are a donor, visitor or contributor, the Reece adheres to institutional ethics and the highest standards of museum operations."

Current exhibits that will remain on display until the Reece Museum's closure on May 6 include "Eulogy" by ETSU graduate student Megan Levacy, the "Mountain Visions" juried exhibition, ETSU's Centennial Exhibition and "19th Century Prints."

The Reece Museum is located at the corner of Stout and Gilbreath Drive on the campus of ETSU. Reece Museum hours are 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday, and 9 a.m.-7 p.m. Thursday, and admission is free. For more information or for special assistance for those with disabilities, call the museum at (423) 439-4392.

A! ExtraTopics: Achievements, Art