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Volume 24, Number 5 — May 2017

William King Museum receives Top 10 Honor


"Untitled (Watermills from around Southwest Virginia)" by Minnie Ma Scyphers has the honor of being in the Top 10 as well as earning the People's Choice Award.

October 30, 2013

The Virginia Association of Museums announced the winners in the Virginia's Top 10 Endangered Artifacts Program. William King Museum's piece "Untitled (Watermills from around Southwest Virginia)" by Minnie Ma Scyphers has the honor of being in the Top 10 as well as earning the People's Choice Award. The award comes with the opportunity for professional restoration of the piece.

Hosted by the Virginia Association of Museums, Virginia's Top 10 Endangered Artifacts program is part of the Virginia Collections Initiative, a statewide collaboration to ensure the safety and stewardship of collections held by museums, libraries and archives in Virginia and D.C. The program raises awareness about the need for collections' care while showcasing the importance of Virginia's history, heritage and art, and the role they play in telling the stories.

"Untitled (Watermills from around Southwest Virginia)" comprises 16 small paintings that have been adhered to a flimsy piece of wood paneling, a material that can be found in older and less expensive homes in place of drywall. The brown tape that surrounds each painting was used as an effort to frame and secure each image in place because Scyphers did not have access to better materials.

During the month of August, public voting was held to determine a People's Choice Award. William King Museum won this award with more than 63,000 votes.

"Sometimes we aren't sure just how many people we are able to reach. We are a small museum on a hill in Southern Appalachia, but we work hard to bring our community exhibitions that are of the caliber you could find in a major city," says curator Leila Cartier. "Minnie Ma spent much of her life amidst the mountains that I can see from my office. She would never have expected her name and her painting to be printed in newspapers across the nation. She would be so amazed. The national attention it has brought to Minnie Ma's story and paintings and the William King Museum is extraordinary."

Scyphers is one of the most prolific yet hardly known folk artists from the Appalachian Mountains of Southwest Virginia. She was born into abject poverty and raised in Hayter's Gap in Washington County, Va. It was not until she was in her 70s that she moved into the old Brumley Gap School and began her artistic life. She died in 1990.

"I am most pleased for the family. They have worked very hard to preserve the legacy of their mother and grandmother," says Cartier. "I am also grateful for the attention it will draw to the amazing programming that William King Museum delivers to the people of Appalachia. This area is very rich culturally, both in the past and at present."

Topics: Achievements, Art