Swannanoa Valley Museum presents 'This is Home: WNC, Past and Present' lecture series

Ezra Maille
Black Mountain News

How old is the city of Asheville? Want more history on the French Broad River? What the heck is the deal with the Brown Mountain lights?

Beginning in March, the Swannanoa Valley Museum & History Center plans to explore these questions with the lecture series "This is Home: Western North Carolina, Past and Present." 

“At the museum, we often meet people who have recently moved to the area, who are really eager to learn about the culture and communities here and how they can plug in,” said Saro Lynch-Thomason, the museum's event coordinator. 

John Ross will open the lecture series with a presentation on the history and future of the French Broad River on March 7.

According to Lynch-Thomason, Buncombe County's population has grown 13% between 2010 and 2020. To the museum, Lynch-Thomason said this suggests an opportunity to teach newcomers about the history and geography of their new home. 

In a statement from the museum, the lecture series outlines connecting broad historical and geographical topics with contemporary issues. The first lecture in the series, presented by John Ross, the author of "Through the Mountains: The French Broad River and Time," will begin with a history of the river and develop into a discussion of preservation movements. 

“Folks often want to know about the history of local towns, the waterways and the wildlife, and they’re looking for a way to start learning about all of that," Lynch-Thomason said. "This series is designed to be a kind of entry point.”

Since every lecture will take place virtually via Zoom, recordings will be made available afterward to anyone registered for the event. 

Tickets to each lecture are $10 for museum members and $15 for nonmembers. Scholarships are available for students, veterans, BIPOC and seniors. To request a scholarship, email

The lecture series will be an ongoing event taking place once a month on Monday evenings, March through November. The full lecture series is as follows:

  • March 7, 6:30-8 p.m. - The French Broad River: Past and Present, with John Ross.
  • April 4, 6:30-8 p.m. - The Formation of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park with Dan Pierce.
  • May 9, 6:30-8 p.m. - Exploring the Buncombe County Turnpike through a 19th Century Artist’s Eyes with Scott Varn.
  • June 6, 6:30-8 p.m. - Making the Invisible Visible: The Lives and Music of African American People in Far Western North Carolina with Ann Miller Woodford.
  • July 11, 6:30-8 p.m. - Asheville and Buncombe County: 1792 to the Turn of the 20th Century, with Katherine Cutshall.
  • Aug. 1, 6:30-8 p.m. - We Will Speak: Learning About Cherokee Language and Language Revitalization Initiatives with Rainy Brake and Louise Brown.
  • Sept. 12, 6:30-8 p.m. - Understanding Southern Appalachian Biodiversity with Dr. Jeniffer Frick-Ruppert.
  • Oct. 3, 6:30-8 p.m. Exploring the Brown Mountain Lights with Dr. Daniel Caton.
  • Nov. 7, 6:30-8 p.m. - André Micheaux in Western North Carolina with Charlie Williams.

Ezra Maille covers the town of Black Mountain, Montreat and the Swannanoa Valley. Reach him at 828-230-3324 or Please support local journalism with access to more breaking news by subscribing.