JASPER - The history of Winston County is vast and varied, and now a stately collection of historical artifacts representing the entirety of the county is on display at one location.
The Bankhead House and Heritage Center in Jasper debuted its latest exhibit, “Celebrating our Communities: Winston County” Sept. 5, with an opening reception at the historic house museum. The exhibit features memorabilia and culturally significant artifacts representing practically all of Winston County. Some of the items on display are vintage clothing, school memorabilia, old photographs, paintings of the county’s natural and historic resources, a treasure trove of items that belonged to long-time Winston County physician Dr. Malcolm Blake, vintage quilts, tools, cooking items, fossilized finds from the county and so much more.
Paul Kennedy, president of the Walker Area Community Foundation, which maintains the Bankhead House, noted during the opening reception that the foundation had so much fun celebrating Winston County’s arts through a 2017 exhibit that they wanted to do another Winston County-centric exhibit. After all, as Kennedy, noted, Winston and Walker counties are intertwined in many ways.
“Winston County has always been a part of what I and my board of directors considered the service area of the public hospital that was sold in 1995. A small portion of the sales proceeds went to establish the Walker Area Community Foundation,” Kennedy told the Alabamian, placing an emphasis on the word “area” within the organization’s name.
Mimi Hudson, executive director of the Bankhead House and Heritage Center, said that telling Winston County’s story has been on the WACF’s radar for some time.
“Since 2017, we have featured communities across Walker County in a series of exhibitions entitled ‘Celebrating our Communities’ and we wanted Winston County to tell their story, as well,” Hudson said.
Bankhead House and Heritage Center Coordinator Barbara Medders noted the staff had a vision as to what the exhibit should include.
“We wanted to collect items of interest that would resonate with our visitors to bring back fond memories and collect artifacts that tell the rich history of Winston County,” Medders said.
Through the relationships the WACF has formed through the years with Winston Countians, the exhibit came together quickly.
“In our work, trust is a major factor. Trust in loaning us the items and trust that we will do their story justice. Without ‘boots on the ground’ in Winston County helping us build that trust, we would not have been able to collect the many items quickly. They knew who to call and how to help us explain who the Bankhead House & Heritage Center is and what we do.
Medders noted that there is a very precise manner in how the Bankhead House collects and documents loaned items for any exhibit.
“After contacting possible individuals to loan items, we try to make sure there is a broad spectrum of interests represented. For example, a quilt or costume vs. a fossil. All of this works together to tell the story.
To ensure the credibility of all our exhibits, Mimi and I have worked to create a system to catalog each item we take in to track who brought the item, who loaned the item, and its history,” Medders stated.
“Our relationships and friendships are priceless,” Hudson added.
Some of those friends made through the years are J.D. and Theresa Snoddy and Larry and Blythe Welton, who were all in attendance for the opening reception and amazed at the collection. All of them noted how proud they were to see Winston County’s history displayed so beautifully and reverently. Other attendees for the reception from Winston County were Treva Hood and Pat Taylor with the Winston County Genealogical Society, who were also pleased with the exhibit.
The Arley Women’s Club was the first sole Winston County beneficiary of the Walker Area Community Foundation, Kennedy noted. Now, around 10 percent of the foundation’s annual grant making goes to benefit different entities in Winston County. Some of the groups/organizations either solely within Winston County or working in Winston County that have benefited from the Walker Area Community Foundation are Camp McDowell, Winston County Arts Council, Winston County Schools, Bevill State Community College, Wild South, Capstone Rural Health Center, Northwest Alabama Mental Health Center, Pregnancy Test and Resource Center, Smith Lake Civic Association, Arley Women’s Club and Main Street Ministries
“Our ambitious goal is to have a $5 million fund just for Winston. It would permit us the ability to grant around $250,000 per year just for Winston County,” Kennedy said.
Hudson said there are a lot of people to thank for bringing this exhibit to life.
“Thank you to everyone who trusted us by loaning their items, they are the key to having a good variety on display. A special thanks to Larry and Blythe Welton, J.D and Theresa Snoddy, the Winston County Archives, and the Winston County Arts Council. There are so many passionate community minded people working in Winston County who stepped up to assist us in telling the story of Winston County,” Hudson said.
Medders also added in her enthusiastic thanks to everyone who donated or helped lead them to someone who could donate items for the exhibit.
“During this process, I have met some lovely people who I would not have met otherwise. I would also like to thank our exhibit committee and Heritage Council, who are year-round volunteers. We could not do what we do without all our volunteers and docents,” Medders said.
Kennedy is also very thankful to all who had a part in making the exhibit such a success, including Hudson and Medders.
“Mimi and the Heritage Committee chaired by Brenda Beard planned this exhibit years ago. Barbara works directly with Mimi on a daily basis to manage the BHHC. None of this would succeed without the army of volunteers for the planning and especially for the collection of the materials on display. The Bankhead House & Heritage Center owns very little of what is on exhibit any time. We borrow the content. That takes a lot of work.
“To connect us in Winston County, J.D. and Theresa Snoddy and Larry and Blythe Welton really came through as "official borrowers". To get someone to loan their family heirloom with a stranger takes an ambassador with a lot of credibility,” Kennedy said.
The Bankhead House & Heritage Center is located at 800 7th Street West and is open Tuesday-Friday from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. and on the third Saturday of each month from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. For more information on the house, go to www.BHandHC.org.
For more information on the Walker Area Community Foundation, call (205) 302-0001 , send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org go to www.wacf.org.
See complete story in the Northwest Alabamian.