“What are you trying to do?” a local resident asked Museum Center at Five Points Executive Director Hassan Najjar. “Turn this place into a real museum?”
Najjar responded with an emphatic “Yes” to the inquirer, and more recently to the Kiwanis Club of Cleveland.
He detailed both the accomplishments since he was hired last March, as well as his plans for the future.
“If you look and see the hard work we’ve put into this institution, I think a lot of people will see we are turning this ship around,” Najjar said. “We need the community to get behind us. We need businesses to step up and sponsor exhibits.”
There are currently 482 members signed on with the museum. The goal is to reach as many of the roughly 39,000 Bradley County households as possible. Memberships from only 1 percent of the households would be a boon to the center.
Packages range from the basic individual membership for $35 to the Ocoee Society Upper sponsorship for $5,000. Memberships beyond individual and family ($60) come with perks like free admission to more than 200 museums in the Southeast.
First Tennessee is currently sponsoring the “Stitches In Time: Hand Quilting” exhibit. The show showcases 25 quilts handmade before the 1950s. An additional 25 contemporary pieces display various techniques and patterns from this “disappearing art.”
“Stitches In Time” will remain on display through March 1.
“Common People in Uncommon Times: The Civil War Experience in Tennessee” will follow hot on the heels of the quilt exhibit beginning March 15. Stories of people in the region who lived during the Civil War will be told through May 17.
Additional exhibits include: “In the Dirt: The Fast and Dirty World of Dirt Track Racing,” displayed from May 30 through Aug. 16; and “Learning the Curve: The Artistry of Matt Moulthrop,” showcased Aug. 29 through Nov. 16.
Najjar emphasized the museum’s exhibits, both temporary and permanent, will focus on the Ocoee Region.
During a previous presentation, a member of the audience asked Najjar why the museum did not bring in an exhibit like King Tutankhamun.
Najjar explained larger metropolitan museums usually display artifacts like King Tut. He also reiterated the focus is on Bradley County and the Ocoee area.
According to Najjar, this does not limit the creative and exciting exhibits the museum will have to offer.
He explained, “There are a lot of opportunities to find subjects that are, I guess, popular and find a way to have them illustrate the mission.”
Aside from temporary and permanent exhibits, the museum works to bring history alive through events like the Tennessee History Day. Najjar announced the museum center will host the Southeast District competition for the competition. He expressed a need for volunteers to judge student projects and assist with the competition on Feb. 22.
Those interested can contact the Southeast District Coordinator, Joy Veenstra, at JVeenstra@museumcenter.org.
Employees at Five Points are currently working to receive a Smithsonian affiliation. The relationship between Cleveland’s museum and the Washington, D.C., powerhouse would allow for the sharing of certain exhibits.
Najjar reiterated much has been completed at the museum. He encouraged the Kiwanis Club and the rest of the community to check out the changes themselves.
“In closing, I would say come and join us. Come and join us, come and check out what we are doing. If you are not a member, I won’t harass you too much right now, but I might talk to you later,” Najjar said. “Attend programs and events — any of them are free or low cost for members. Even if you are not a member, many of the exhibits are still low cost.”
Continued Najjar, “One of the more important things you can do: Please, give me your feedback. I need to know what you are thinking about what we are doing. Whether it is good or bad, I can take it.”
More information can be found at www.museumcenter.org.