Designing an Appalachian Folk Art Museum

Designing an Appalachian Folk Art Museum
Ellen Wilson: Sports and Popular Culture

Skill: High School/College
Time Required: Five class periods or more


   Ellen Wilson was, along with many other things, a very good artist, and was interested in arts of all kinds.  She was also particularly interested in helping people help themselves.  Although she did not personally oversee a collection of Mountain Folk Art, she might very well have been interested in doing so had she had the chance.


Students who participate in this lesson will gain some knowledge of the Appalachian region and culture, especially the folk art of mountain people.  They will also learn to think in terms of displaying art works in the design of a Mountain Folk Art Museum.

Materials Required:

Access to the Internet; access to books about Mountain culture and craft art; paper and art materials or a computer publishing program.


1.  Introduce students to the Appalachian people and culture by showing the PowerPoint on the website listed first, below.

2.  Then divide the class in half, and let half explore the site on Appalachian language and half explore the site on identity in a mountain family.

3.  With this background, divide the class into four or five groups.  Using the websites listed below, and both web and print resources, each group should research one of the following areas of mountain arts and crafts:

  • music (songs, dulcimers, whistles, etc.)
  • painting
  • doll making
  • quilts
  • wooden toys and other objects
  • pottery
  • storytelling

4.  The object of this study is to select items for inclusion in a new Appalachian Mountain Folk Art Museum.  It is the job of each group to convince the museum curator (the teacher!) that certain objects should be included in the museum.

5.  Toward this end, small groups should prepare a small portfolio that describes the objects of their research; the portfolio can include writing, pictures, drawings, descriptions, histories, etc., and a rationale for the inclusion of these items in the museum.

6.  The museum curator selects appropriate items for the museum (if students do an excellent job, the museum will have to be quite large!)


Extending the Lesson:

The lesson could be extended by having students make posters showing their "type" of art or craft and exhibiting it to the school.

Sources & Resources:


            Appalachian History: slide show

            What is Appalachian Language, Anyhow?

            Identity in a Mountain Family

            “Crafting Appalachian Identity

            Mountain Craftsmen I

            Mountain Craftsmen II


Look also for museums that have displays of Mountain Folk Art on the Internet.  The Smithsonian, the Library of Congress, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art websites are good candidates for this research.


This lesson was developed by Averil McClelland, Kent State University.