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One case in the museum is dedicated to the Bailey-Gilmore Funeral Home.  Families with connections to the items were asked to be present for the grand opening on July 4.

The Joanna Lewis Museum of Coffee County History, the museum in Manchester’s downtown courthouse, will host a grand opening ceremony at 4 p.m. on Thursday, July 4.

The Chamber of Commerce will also be present for a ribbon cutting.

“The museum is named in memory of our former county historian, Joanna Lewis, and her family has been asked to participate in the ribbon cutting,” said museum curator Eugenia “Button” Dale.

Dale has been in charge of the museum since its inception mid-2018. Over the past year, Dale has collected donations from local families to feature in the museum and renovated the area to display them. Even the display cases themselves – or at least five of them – are local history pieces.  They were donated by a now-defunct local grocery store.

For the ceremony, an ice cream social, a tent and chairs will be set up on the courthouse lawn, Tom Foolery will provide entertainment and music will be played over the PA system. According to minutes of the Downtown Steering Commission’s June 14 meeting, the city’s tourism commission will reimburse the committee for the event.  Additionally, made from the ice cream truck will go toward the upkeep of the courthouse.

The museum will feature scrapbooks from the Hickerson family, items from the Gilmore Funeral Home, old books, toys, notebooks from the Green Thumb Garden club and the retired teacher’s club that date back to the 1960s and Central High School sport records that date back 30 or 40 years. The Coffee County Historical Society also has thousands of photo negatives.

The museum was originally planned to open in May, but was delayed to allow for a bigger celebration.

“Thanks to our volunteer staff and the board members for pitching in when needed and being encouraging in getting this project off the ground,” Dale said.

The museum is funded, in part, by a $5,000 Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee grant awarded Historical Society member Beverly Vetter. The foundation administers the Lillian Ashley Field-of-Interest Fund, established in 2002 from the estate of a Manchester resident who wanted to better the county.  The monies will go toward archiving and preserving museum inventory. Funds were also provided by the High Pressure Laminate Settlement Fund.

The Joanna Lewis Museum of Coffee County History is dedicated to a late member of the historical society. Lewis, who died March 5, 2018, was the Coffee County Historian, served as President of the Coffee County Historical Society, and was a member of the Middle Tennessee Amateur Radio Society. A passionate historian and genealogist, she also co-published Tombstone Records of Cannon County.

The museum will be open Thursday-Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Admittance is free and donations are appreciated.