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High Point Museum gearing for exhibits

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Todd Cohen

HIGH POINT, N.C. — Already a hub of furniture manufacturing, High Point in the early decades of the 20th century replaced Grand Rapids, Mich., as the main market in the U.S. for selling furniture.

The story of the development of the city’s furniture market, and the impact that market has had on the community and its people, will be the focus of an exhibition the High Point Museum will open on May 26, 2009, as part of the city’s 150th anniversary.

The museum has been developing the exhibit through a federal grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services totaling $150,000, and has been working to raise another $100,000 from corporations to help install the exhibit.

And now it is seeking additional support for the installation and construction of the exhibit through a “Chair-ity Begins at Home” campaign that invites individual givers to
honor workers involved in every aspect of the furniture industry, including factors workers, company owners and those involved in related industries.

“Everybody in High Point at some point has been touched by the furniture industry,” says Teresa Loflin, community relations director for the museum, whose father worked as a supervisor in a company that made springs for furniture cushions.

Barbara Taylor, president of the museum, says a major focus of the exhibit will be to “put a face” on the industry and “tell the story of those who worked in factories.”

The exhibit will feature life-size photos of people who worked in the industry “so literally they can see themselves,” Taylor says.

As a result, she says, “it only made sense that we should really have a component in this campaign that would reach out to everybody.”

Featuring manufacturing tools and machines donated by the Furniture Discovery Center after it closed in 2005, the exhibit also will feature furniture from the museum’s collection, as well as memorabilia and interactive elements, and will highlight industries tied to the furniture industry, including photography, veneer, hardware,
upholstery and the market itself.

The museum, for example, aims through donations to reconstruct a photography studio like those that shot pictures used to sell furniture.

With an annual budget that ranges from $500,000 to $750,000, the museum employs eight people working full-time and nine working part-time.

It operates six historic properties owned by the City of High Point, including three at its complex at 1859 E. Lexington Ave., one a block away, and two in City Lake Park,
and attracts 15,000 visitors a year.

The city provides 60 percent of the museum’s budget, with contributed income accounting for another 25 percent and earned income accounting for 15 percent.

And as it prepares for the furniture exhibition that opens next year, the museum also is seeking grants to develop a major exhibit that will open in 2010 on John Coltrane, the jazz saxophonist and composer who was born in Hamlet and raised in High Point.

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