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Black Mountain, Montreat museums to reopen galleries to the public

Ty Roush
Black Mountain News
The Swannanoa Valley Museum & History Center reopened to the public Sept. 5 after closing in March.

BLACK MOUNTAIN - The Swannanoa Valley Museum & History Center reopened to the public Sept. 5. Montreat’s Presbyterian Heritage Center museum will join in reopening on Sept. 10 with a 25 visitor limit, the museum announced. 

This follows a Sept. 1 announcement by Gov. Roy Cooper to move into Phase 2.5 of the state’s three-phase reopening plan for businesses and public spaces. Museums will now be able to open 50% capacity or up to 12 people per 1,000 square feet.

Swannanoa Valley Museum director LeAnne Johnson said the museum was prepared to open shortly after closing in March, but they were waiting for a go-ahead. The museum focused on interacting with its audience online.

“We’re just trying to let people know that we exist and we’ve got some really fascinating history to teach you about,” Johnson said.

A six-month hiatus has provided Johnson’s museum opportunities to develop various webinar series. She says the success of the webinars has broadened the museum’s audience.

“We’ve actually increased our audience quite a bit from Western North Carolina to other states and countries, which surprised us, but we’re happy about it,” Johnson said. “We actually had people from California, Washington, a couple people from Canada, England and India join in on some of our webinars.”

While closed, Johnson and staff “had a chance to really go through our collections and our exhibits and kind of tighten them up, make it look better, make it look a little more professional.”

The museum plans to continue developing more webinars to go along with virtual tours of downtown. Tours will focus on downtown historic buildings and will be aimed toward children or those interested.

Providing virtual tours will allow schools to provide online field trips.

“They can’t go on field trips this year, which is really unfortunate,” Johnson said. “But at least teachers can expose them to the history of downtown Black Mountain.”

Future tours will include the local cemetery, the Swannanoa Valley and other historic buildings throughout the valley.

Johnson, who was hired in March, says the start of her tenure has been “interesting.” Support from the community, and those outside the state, has given the museum confidence moving forward.

“It’s been interesting (being closed),” Johnson said. “The community has been extremely supportive in making sure that we can keep our doors open, donating and supporting us in that manner.”