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Tobacco Farm Life Museum opens blacksmith exhibit

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KENLY— The grand opening of the new “Forged in Fire” blacksmith exhibit at the Tobacco Farm Life Museum on Saturday almost resembled an international exposition of sorts as several visitors learning about the art of blacksmithing as practiced by early North Carolina farmers were from faraway locales.

Harm Heusinkveld, who is from The Netherlands, was among those observing and listening as volunteers and members of Mid-West Tool Collectors conducted a mini-seminar for visitors by explaining the basics of blacksmithing and the importance of blacksmithing skills for farmers during the period between 1880 and 1950.

“This exhibit is really wonderful,” Heusinkveld said as he watched tool collector association member Randy Stolz of Cary form and shape several typical tools that would have been used by the early farmers. “Things like this help keep the heritage of blacksmithing alive. My girlfriend and I live in Durham and we have also been learning about the history of tobacco.”

The couple was joined for the demonstration by a friend who came with them from Ontario, Canada.

Earlier in the day there was a group from Sussex, England who visited the museum.

The new permanent blacksmith exhibit consists of graphic panels installed in the museum’s fully functioning reproduction of a farm workshop.

“We have been looking forward to updating these exhibit panels for a long time and we are thrilled with the exhibit,” said Tobacco Farm Life Museum Executive Director Melody Worthington. “We are also excited to have been able to get input from the Mid-West Tool Collectors Association. They have been longtime partners with the museum and we cannot thank them enough. This exhibit will add so much to the visitor experience.”

“Our goal for this exhibit was to provide background information for visitors so they can better understand why this workshop is at a museum about farm life, to better understand the relationship between blacksmithing and farming and to have more context when viewing the tools in the shop,” said the exhibit’s curator, Beth Nevarez, who works as collection care specialist with the museum’s collection of historical artifacts. “Previously there was not anything for visitors to read on their own in case a blacksmith was not on site when they came by to visit. ”

In addition to providing information on blacksmithing, tools of the trade and its relationship to farm life, the exhibit also includes historic photographs of local blacksmith shops.

The workshop is one of seven historic or reproduction buildings on site that bring history to life for the museum’s visitors.

The Tobacco Farm Life Museum, which was established and opened its doors in 1983 also includes a 6,000 square-foot gallery of exhibit space detailing life on farms in eastern North Carolina including information on farming itself, but also daily life, community, religion, medicine and more from the 19th and 20th centuries.

The museum on U.S. 301 in Kenly is open from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays. For more information, call 919-284-3431 or visit