Coming Home To Mitford
Hi everyone! Last Friday my friend, Sharon, and I headed down the highway to visit the Mitford Museum. You will recall that we are both fans of "The Mitford Series" books written by Jan Karon and we were both excited to visit the museum and learn more about the life and times of Jan Karon. Here, Sharon and I are standing in the hallway of the museum.
The Mitford Museum is located in the old Hudson Elementary school which both Jan and her sister attended. The school was purchased by the town of Hudson, NC and turned into an Arts Center housing space for the museum as well as other things. I love that rather than tearing an old school down, it has been refurbished and is being used for this purpose.
This was our lovely tour guide and she conducted Sharon and I throughout the exhibits. The first stop is in the hallway just outside of what was Jan Karon's first grade classroom. On the wall behind the tour guide you can see some drawings/writing done by Jan at various times in her life.
This is a map in the hallway where visitors can add a pin to show where they have traveled from. Every state except four has had visitors coming to the museum so far! Alaska and Hawaii had visitors coming as well as visitors from Europe! Mitford is a much beloved place.
This is Jan's former first grade classroom. We were free to roam around the exhibits with the tour guide chiming in with extra information from time to time. People have left messages for Jan on the chalkboard. I love how the "school" theme carries through in this room.
There were glass cases all throughout the museum housing Jan's memorabilia and photos of her family. This case shows a tribute to her grandmother "Miss Fannie" of the famous Miss Fannie's Hat book that Jan wrote. You can see one of Miss Fannie's hats and a pair of her very fancy earrings as well as copies of Jan's books translated into many languages. There were similar glass cases dedicated to her parents and an area dedicated to photos of her very early life with her first husband and little daughter, Candace.
This is the middle of the room and Sharon is looking at the plethora of items that Jan carried with her throughout her many moves and are now displayed on an old table that belonged to her grandmother. There was even a framed baking pan that her grandmother had used!
There were a couple of thank you letters to Jan on display. This was a thank you from first lady Barbara Bush.
This section of the room showed more items from Jan's growing up years and had her voice speaking through an old fashioned radio explaining to aspiring authors the things she feels are important in writing a book. The mirror you see is the very one that Jan looked into as a very young girl and declared that one day she would be an author. She invites visitors to gaze into the mirror and make their own hopeful declarations.
After finishing in Jan's First Grade Classroom, our tour guide escorted us into a second classroom which housed more items from Jan's life as well as a lot of items that came with Jan's success such as the Hallmark series of snowmen and Mitford village houses. Here, you can see the desk that Jan used when writing the books in the series. The tour guide told us that this is the one item in the museum that we were allowed to touch and open the drawers of as they also housed important items.
These drawers housed the original manuscript of "These High Green Hills" and some precious letters to Jan from her daughter. Her daughter, Candace, passed away recently from pancreatic cancer so this was a poignant part of the tour indeed.
And if you have read, "Shepherds Abiding" you will recognize the nativity pieces that Father Tim refurbishes for his wife Cynthia as a Christmas present.
In real life, Jan bought these pieces at an antique store in Blowing Rock, NC and when she mentioned having them refurbished to her daughter, her daughter told her she should have "Father Tim to do that."
And one corner of the room was set up with a church theme with vestments like Father Tim might have worn.
The gift shop bears the name from the book and is called, "Happy Endings Bookstore." All the items in the gift shop were hand picked by Jan Karon and have something to do with characters or events in her books. Do you see Dooley's red bike hanging on the wall?
Of course all of Jan Karon's books are for sale in the shop and signed by her, as well. I understand that, soon, items in the gift shop will be available online.
It was a lovely outing with Sharon, to go to the Mitford Museum. I feel such a connection with the characters in her books and find myself wishing sometimes that I could step through a portal and be in Mitford for awhile. Jan's books just leave you with that type of warm feeling. Sharon and I were talking about this on the drive back to Asheville. It's not that "real life" doesn't happen in the Mitford books. But Jan has a way of writing that doesn't offend or leave one feeling depressed. It's a beautiful gift to have to be able to write this way. Sharon and I have been blessed to get to meet and talk to Jan on more than one occasion when she has done author talks in Asheville and she is just as gracious and kind as I would have imagined her to be had I never met her personally. Visiting The Mitford Museum only has added to my admiration of this wonderful author.
Until Next Time,