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History center exhibit displays items from home of Byron Herbert Reece
A sewing machine that was not electric and was operated by a foot pedal. - photo by Tom Reed

‘Poet’s House: Byron Herbert Reece’s Home from Farm to Heritage Center’
When: Through March 27
Where: Northeast Georgia History Center, 322 Academy St., Gainesville How much: $3, free for members
More info: 770-297-5900

History center forum
What: John Kay will speak on the life of Byron Herbert Reece and how the society named in his honor is promoting his legacy
When: 7 p.m. Tuesday
Where: Northeast Georgia History Center

Mementos of North Georgia’s literary history greet you as you walk through the doors of the Northeast Georgia History Center.

The suitcase, sturdy metal cot and midcentury record player are all part of an exhibit offering a glimpse into the life of Byron Herbert Reece, a prolific poet who grew up in the North Georgia mountains and ended his life too soon.

The exhibit is also in conjunction with the Byron Herbert Reece Society, which has recently started work on renovating the old Reece family farm outside Blairsville. Plans call for walking paths and an interpretive center that not only feature Reece’s writings but also offer a glimpse into sustenance farming in the Appalachian mountains.

The items at the history center exhibit originally came from the house that is on the property. While it’s not the original Reece family home — the original home was torn down years ago, and this one was built by Reece for his parents — it will serve as the visitor center for the farm.

"All of this came out of the Reece family home after the last family member left," said Fleming Weaver, a member of the Byron Herbert Reece Society who has been instrumental in getting the farm turned into an interpretive center.

Items show an interesting mix of rural, hardscrabble Appalachian life alongside modern conveniences, such as an old TV. Wooden chairs in the exhibit are most likely made by hand, said museum director Glen Kyle, and are placed next to books and small family trinkets owned by Reece.

Two paintings by Reece are also on display for the first time. The exhibit also features the screen door from his writing studio on the farm, a building which he dubbed "Mulberry Hall."

Weaver said the door was removed from the small wooden shed when renovations began on the farm property.

"We had it moved so it wouldn’t get torn up," he said. "Somebody gave him the paint and that’s what he called it (the building). It’s a small structure where he did all his pondering."

One side of the exhibit groups items that would have been used in the house by Reece, his siblings and his parents, Kyle said. That includes a rustic wooden couch with a leather seat, a hand-knitted afghan and a mid-century television.

"You’ve got this grounding in the past, but in the same life with a television set," Kyle said. "It’s the new and the old coexisting."

The other side of the exhibit displays items found in Reece’s studio, Mulberry Hall.

On that side is a handful of Reece’s books, a suitcase packed with a suit and tie and a cot where Reece would lay to ponder in between writing.

A typewriter in the exhibit is similar to the one Reece used for all his writings, but Kyle nor Weaver could confirm it. And a record player beside it may be the same one playing when Reece took his life in 1958 in an apartment near Young Harris College.

"I always think you can know a person by their books or their music," Kyle said. "Well, here’s a portion of it."