The story of Alabama’s past unfolds in a bicentennial exhibit at the Alabama Center for the Arts’ Performing Arts Building through Dec. 14, the state’s 200th birthday.

The Making Alabama exhibit, which opened Tuesday in Decatur, is one of four such traveling exhibits that have been on a 19-month tour around the state.

“This is the last stop for this particular exhibit,” said John Allison, executive director of the Morgan County Archives. “It’s a great opportunity for the people of Morgan County and north Alabama.

“You’re going to have to make more than one trip to see it all.”

The free display includes eight stations with interactive computer tablets representing periods of Alabama prehistory and history, and projecting into the future.  Exhibit panels feature people who played prominent roles in Alabama history, including warrior Chief Menawa, civil rights activist Rosa Parks, secessionist William Lowndes Yancey, U.S. House Speaker William B. Bankhead and Alabama's first African American chief justice, Oscar Adams Jr.

There’s also a special exhibit of artifacts and documents on loan from the Morgan County Archives and narrative panels that share the county’s history.

The exhibit schedule is Monday through Thursday, 8 a.m.-8 p.m. and Friday, 8 a.m.-noon.

Decatur residents and history buffs Robbie and James Wigginton have been waiting for the exhibit to arrive, and showed up for the opening Tuesday morning.

“We both enjoy history,” said Robbie Wigginton. “There are so many things people don’t know about our state.”

One bit of early history the Wiggintons learned about during their tour: the 5-mile-wide meteor that crashed in present-day Wetumpka at the end of the Dinosaur Age.

The Wiggintons plan to return when their daughter, who lives in northern Virginia, comes for a visit.

Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, the chairman of the Alabama Bicentennial Committee, said he requested that Morgan County be the last stop for the exhibit.

“It will be here in the weeks leading up to Bicentennial Day, Dec. 14,” Orr said. “People will be more focused on it in the coming weeks as we approach that date.”

Among the artifacts from different periods of Morgan County history:

• A U.S. land patent to James Dinsmore, a Revolutionary War veteran, for a 160-acre parcel east of present-day Falkville. The document was signed by President James Monroe in 1824.

• A print from the Jan. 14, 1888, American Architect and Building News of The Tavern, a luxury hotel located at the corner of Alabama Avenue (now Sixth Avenue) and Grant Street, which was built for entertaining and lodging wealthy investors in the Decatur Land Improvement and Furnace Co.’s New Decatur development. The building, later operating as an apartment building, burned in 1923.

• A Civil War bayonet found near Flint and a $5 note printed in 1864, with an illustration depicting slaves harvesting cotton.

Philip Mann, the center’s executive director of external affairs, encouraged visitors to also check out a permanent exhibit on the center's second floor that honors members of the Alabama Arts Hall of Fame. The exhibit was unveiled in September.

The bicentennial exhibit is presented by the Alabama Humanities Foundation. or 256-340-2438. Twitter @DD_MAccardi.
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