Northern Kentucky University Public History graduate student David Myers spent the summer in Clifton, Tennessee, home of famed author T.S. Stribling, developing a brand new exhibit called “These Hills Once Spoke; The Life and Legacy of T.S. Stribling” at the T.S. Stribling Museum and Library.
Consisting of hundreds of the author’s personal possessions, papers and correspondence,
the exhibit focuses on bringing T.S. Stribling back to life through modern interactive displays, information panels and exhibits. According to Myers, “People who have previously been to the museum will be amazed by the transformation and those who have never even heard of T.S. Stribling will walk away with an appreciation of the author and his contribution to the Southern literary style.”
Thomas Sigismund Stribling was born in Clifton, Tennessee on March 4, 1881. The first child of lawyer Christopher Columbus Stribling and his wife, Amelia Ann Stribling. He completed his high school education at age 17 and went on to become a teacher himself, before graduating from the University of Alabama School of Law in 1905.
However, instead of working as a practicing lawyer, Stribling used the office supplies and typewriter (and his paid hours), to write. Having sold his first story at the age of 12 (for five dollars), Stribling became convinced that his future lay in writing. In fact, he quickly gave up practicing law (in 1907), instead devoting himself to writing. In 1930 he published the first book of his most acclaimed work, “The Vaiden Trilogy” of which the second installment, “The Store” (1932), won the Pulitzer Prize.
According to Myers, the museum, housed in Striblings former residence, was in need of some serious TLC, including cataloging, archiving, and creation of new displays and exhibits. Living on-site for the summer (in a small converted garage next to the museum), Myers was able to devote every waking hour to the mammoth task of sorting through hundreds of artifacts, unearthing many interesting pieces, such as a billfold engraved with Stribling’s name and numerous letters to and from publishers. Thankfully, Mr. Myers learned about exhibit design, artifact care, and museum interpretation in several of his public history classes. “The Public History Program allows students to engage in real world, hands on programs in the community, providing a valuable learning experience to the student and performing an important service for the community.”