Museum expands collection

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 29, 2007

MURFREESBORO – Behind every piece at the Brady C. Jefcoat Museum waits a story to be told.

Museum Director Brinson Paul knows all of those stories, from the 1780 harp crafted by S\u00E9bastien …rard, who once made musical instruments for British Monarchs and Marie Antoinette, to the “Goofus” glass from the early 19th Century.

Approaching its 10th anniversary, the museum has something else to celebrate other than a notable milestone—a new exhibit.

The new exhibit will feature items from Bea and Harold Simmons of Washington, NC. The objects will be displayed in the Home Economics Building on the grounds.

Among the artifacts are Abraham Lincoln memorabilia (including a foot stool owned by Mary Todd Lincoln), kerosene lamps, lacquer boxes and more than 200 Russian Nesting dolls, which are also know as Matryoshka dolls or Babushka dolls.

Paul said the Simmons visited Russia often and during one of those visits Bea toured a few Russian orphanages.

“She found the conditions in the orphanages deplorable, not enough food, not enough clothes,” he said. “So, she took some money to buy food and clothes for the children.”

Paul said the children were working on nesting dolls at the time and in a gesture of appreciation the children gave her the dolls.

Paul said the exhibit will take him awhile to coordinate and is still months from being open to the public.

“It’s kind of a coming attraction,” he said.

To attract visitors to the Simmons display, Paul plans to have a teaser exhibit of the nesting dolls in the gift shop.

Meanwhile, the Jefcoat still offers three floors of the historic and unusual to museum goers.

Hosted in the former Murfreesboro High School, the eclectic collection boasts 13,000 items.

Brady C. Jefcoat started his collection more than 30 years ago following the death of his wife, Lillian. The very first piece collected and restored by Jefcoat was a flower horn phonograph that is displayed on the third floor.

Among the displays are the largest collections of washing machine equipment, butter churns and irons.

Over 600 musical items are displayed in the museum, including phonographs, radios and music boxes.

A 1500 English Tudor bed is the centerpiece of one of the many rooms in the three floor building. Paul noted the famous Tudor rose, a product of the Wars of the Roses, which adorns the brass bed.

The museum also has a room devoted to mounted and stuffed animals. Paul said at least one of each animal native to North Carolina are showcased, even those were originally not indigenous to the state, like the alligator, skunk and groundhog.

“People either like this room or they don’t,” he said.

Paul added many people have been disturbed by the room, so much so they have to make a quick exit.

Paul himself has become a fixture around the museum.

Though he retired, along with his wife Lorene in 2005, he returned within a few months when a replacement could not be found.

Paul said he feels his time has come to retire from his 15 year work with the museum, he is still holding out for some young blood.

“We need some young person to step forward,” Paul said.

Paul admits there have been some great memories when it comes to the Jefcoat, especially its visitors.

“I have met some wonderful people,” he said.

One of Paul’s favorite memories happened during tour of the museum. While explaining military grave markers, a woman noticed a framed poster above the display of Norman Rockwell’s “Freedom from Fear,” which depicts a mother and father tucking their two children into bed.

Paul recalled the woman pointing to one of the children in the portrait and simply saying, “My, there’s Emily.”

The woman explained she had grown up in Arlington, Vermont, the town that inspired Rockwell’s paintings along its local residents. She said she had been friends with the little girl “Emily.”

“It touched my heart,” he said. “That really struck a cord with me.”

The Brady C. Jefcoat Museum is open on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday from 2-5 p.m. Group tours are available and can be scheduled by calling (252) 398-8054.

Tours can also be scheduled with the Murfreesboro Historical Association at (252) 398-5922.