Serving Home and Community
"My mother was a domestic, but she taught me I could be anything I wanted to be-if I worked hard enough. Now that I'm a police captain, I want to be a pathfinder for those after me. I would not be where I am today were it not for people like Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, and Eleanor Roosevelt." —Ivin Lee, Dunbar, West Virginia, 1996
Ten of Barbara Beirne's evocative photographs of the southern Appalachian landscape complemented the exhibition. Sometimes pastoral, sometimes bleak, these haunting images of Appalachian towns and countrysides set the environmental stage for the stories told in the portraits.
Serving Home and Community was curated by David Haberstich, head of photographic collections at NMAH's Archives Center.
Ravenswood, Ivanhoe, Pippa Passes, Cherokee-the picturesque place names of the southern Appalachian highlands can belie the harsh realities of daily life in these hills. In a land of coal mines and company towns, the women of this lovely but isolated region have faced uncommon challenges in their struggles to keep their families, communities, and cultures intact. Many of these women have demonstrated admirable determination and dignity in the midst of unemployment, illness, and natural disaster. Their resourcefulness and perseverance are testaments to the American spirit.
Organized by the Smithsonian's (NMAH), Serving Home and Community: Women of Southern Appalachia paid tribute to these acts of personal heroism.
Since 1992, accomplished documentary photographer Barbara Beirne has traveled the small towns and quiet valleys of Kentucky, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia, photographing and interviewing many of the remarkable women who call this region home. Beirne's richly detailed black-and-white photographs capture the historic struggles and inspirational accomplishments of two generations of Appalachian women, revealing the region's social, racial, and cultural diversity. Each portrait is paired with an excerpt from Barbara Beirne's interviews, allowing each woman to recount her story in her own unique voice.
This Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service exhibition toured from 1999-2003.