Osceola Missouri has some very interesting tales from its experience with the New Harmonies exhibit, which visited their community from May 9 to June 20, 2009. Osceola’s local exhibit featured regional entertainers of the past and present, in addition to a display of records and musical instruments used by Osceola residents. One of the local exhibit highlights was a performance on an 150 year old grand piano! This piano carries much historical significance for the folks of Osceola – having been passed down through generations of the Lewis clan, this baby grand was shipped across the country via boat and ox wagon, and later survived the 1861 burning of Osceola. In 1984 the piano was restored to playing capacity, and was recently donated to the St. Clair County Historical Society by the Lewis family at the New Harmonies exhibit opening this past May 2009.
Osceola programming included a Native American festival which centered on tribal dance. Over 100 Native Americans participated in this heritage-based musical performance. Of special interest was the beautiful tribal clothing donned by the performers:
Cooperation within the community was a key element to Osceola’s exhibit success.The town of 785 welcomed 1,828 visitors to the New Harmonies exhibit! Partners were wide-ranging, including the city government, chamber of commerce, local garden clubs, quilt guilds, sororities and churches. Joan McPeak, president of St.Clair Historical Society, affirmed the exhibit’s positive impact on the community’s collaborative spirit with her statement; “We so appreciated the opportunity to have the new Harmonies exhibit in our museum. Three other organizations joined forces to sponsor this event…This is one of the first times that I can remember such cooperation between all these entities…It was a great experience!”
Joan shared this colorful anecdote from the exhibit with us:
“The 'spoon' display created more interest than any of the others, I believe. Richard Sunderwirth, local musician and historian, came every time we had a group of school children touring and demonstrated the spoon playing by accompanying a CD of “Under the Double Eagle.” This encouraged the children to experiment with the spoons on the kiosk. There was one little boy who brought his parents back on the Saturday after his whole class had been to the exhibit. He stationed himself at the spoon display and worked on it the whole time (about two hours) that his parents were viewing the rest of the exhibit.He was about 10 or 11 years old and so polite. If someone else came by that section he would step aside until they finished looking and then go right back to working on the spoons. I was really impressed with his interest. He told me that his grandfather had promised to make him a wooden set to play.”
Looks like Osceola had a spoonful of fun with this exhibit!
We truly appreciate the effort put forth by this community. Many thanks to Joan McPeak for this exhibit update.
- Roxanne Berschler, SITES, Washington, D.C.