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For a free, enriching experience, visit Guntersville Museum and Cultural Center

GUNTERSVILLE — If you’re looking for something educational, fun and free, don’t sleep on visiting the Guntersville Museum and Cultural Center. The building alone is worth the trip.

Come for the historical architecture, but stay for the many permanent and traveling exhibits that make up this quaint community museum, particularly Sept. 17-18 during  Marshall County Museums Weekend.

(Sara Watkins/256 Today)

The all-rock structure, which was once the Guntersville Armory, sits on a hillside among lush vegetation, showcasing spectacular views from all sides. 

Built in 1936, the building was used for dances during the construction of the Guntersville Dam and then parties that coincided with the town’s annual boat races.

In the 1970s, it was turned over to the City of Guntersville after a new armory was built. It was then used as a local fire station until the mid-1980s and, after renovations in 2006, the Guntersville Museum was relocated there.

The Guntersville Museum and Cultural Center opened in 1993 in the old Episcopal Church parish hall on Debow Street. Several years prior to opening, the Museum Board began amassing and cataloging the collection. 

“It was important to not only preserve Guntersville’s history, but to tell its story to visitors and citizens, all for free,” Museum Director Julie Patton said.

In addition to permanent exhibits such as Native American artifacts, early Guntersville settlement, and the Wyeth family, the museum holds nostalgia.

Will Rogers, Bessie’s Birds, and the “Miss Guntersville” boat all anchor the exhibitions in the large Errol Allen & William E. “Sonny” Lewis Exhibit Hall. The museum’s permanent art collection of more than 200 works by local and regional artists is rotated periodically throughout the lobby and the Woodall Gallery.

“We are a true community museum in that most of our art and artifacts have been donated or sponsored by local residents,” Patton said. “Our grand building and organizational setup also make it possible to obtain traveling exhibitions which make the museum more unique than a typical small museum.

“Add in programs and events, and we have a truly remarkable place.”

(Sara Watkins/256 Today)

This summer, the Guntersville Museum featured a Western Memorabilia Exhibit, a collection from some of the most famous Western movies and television programs, including one of the eye patches John Wayne wore in “True Grit,” a pair of Will Rogers’ chaps, Gene Autry’s cowboy boots, and props and wardrobe items from “Gunsmoke,” “Bonanza” and more. The exhibit ends Wednesday. 

The Robert Rivers Exhibition of Contemporary Art will be at the museum Oct. 4 through Jan. 8. Rivers is a native of Guntersville and an award-winning artist and professor of fine arts in Florida. 

The 15th Annual Festival of Trees will feature about three dozen lighted and decorated trees and wreaths from Nov. 24 through Jan. 1. This yearly exhibit includes special music and events throughout the holiday season.  

“We love this time of year because we get so many locals and out-of-towners who visit with us,” Patton said. “It’s very festive and social.”

The inaugural Marshall County Museums Weekend is Sept. 17-18. All museums in the county – Guntersville, Boaz, Albertville, Arab and Grant – will be open from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sept. 17 and 1-5 p.m. Sept. 18. The event is free to the public.

“We look forward to the Marshall County Museums weekend in September,” said Museum Board Chairman Deborah Cornelius. “We value the collaborative efforts of all the local museums and can’t wait to see how the partnership will evolve.” 

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