ABINGDON, Va. – The Virginia Association of Museums announced the winners in the Virginia's Top 10 Endangered Artifacts Program. The museum's piece "Untitled (Watermills from around Southwest Virginia)" by Minnie Ma Scyphers has the honor of being in the top 10 as well as earning the People's Choice Award.
Hosted by the Virginia Association of Museums, Virginia's Top 10 Endangered Artifacts program is part of the Virginia Collections Initiative, which is a statewide collaboration to ensure the ongoing safety and stewardship of collections held by museums, libraries and archives in Virginia and D.C. The Top 10 program raises awareness about the need for collections care while showcasing the importance of Virginia's diverse history, heritage, and art and the role that objects play in telling those stories.
"Untitled (Watermills from around Southwest Virginia)" is comprised of 16 small paintings that have been adhered to a flimsy piece of wood paneling, a material that can be found in older and less expensive homes in place of drywall. The brown tape that surrounds each painting was used as an effort to frame and secure each image in place because Minnie Ma did not have access to better materials.
During the month of August, public voting was held to determine a People's Choice Award. William King Museum won this award with more than 63,000 votes.
"Sometimes we aren't sure just how many people we are able to reach. We are a small museum on a hill in Southern Appalachia, but we work hard to bring our community exhibitions that are of the caliber you could find in a major city," says curator Leila Cartier. "Minnie Ma spent much of her life amidst the mountains that I can see from my office. She would never have expected her name and her painting to be printed in newspapers across the nation. She would be so amazed. The national attention it has brought to Minnie Ma's story and paintings and the William King Museum is extraordinary."
Minnie Ma Scyphers is one of the most prolific yet hardly known folk artists from the Appalachian Mountains of Southwest Virginia. She was born into abject poverty and raised in Hayters Gap in Washington County, Va. It was not until in her 70s that she moved into the old Brumley Gap School and began her artistic life.
"I am most pleased for the family. They have worked very hard to preserve the legacy of their mother and grandmother," says curator Leila Cartier. "I am also grateful for the attention it will draw to the amazing programming that William King Museum delivers to the people of Appalachia. This area is very rich culturally, both in the past and at present."
Through its permanent collection of cultural heritage artifacts and the dedication of an entire gallery to cultural heritage, William King Museum is actively working to exhibit these important artifacts from our region that are an important part of history.
"We strive to inspire, excite and engage our audiences by enabling them to experience extraordinary works of art from all over the world as well as the cultural heritage of our own Southwest Virginia and Northeast Tennessee region," says executive director Marcy Miller.
For more information on the permanent collection and cultural heritage gallery of William King Museum, visit www.williamkingmuseum.org or call 276-628-5005.