Alabama Southern to host Smithsonian exhibit during COTR

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 4, 2006

There are a few of you out there who are aware of the fact that in about nine months we will all be in the throes of Christmas – and in Demopolis that means “Christmas On the River” (COTR).

It is one of our community’s annual festivals which has reached a level of anticipation throughout the region and the State which marks it as a milestone for activities in our area, as well as an annual standard throughout the Southeast.

This year, Mr. Jack Cooley will Chair the event and has a good committee working with him.

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We all need to line up and offer support in whatever capacity we can.

And there is no job which is too insignificant for this effort.

Each of us can do something, and, as the poet John Milton wrote in his Sonnet 19 “On His Blindness,”

“They also serve who only stand and wait.”

With this in mind, when we were approached a few months ago by the Alabama Humanities Foundation as a possible site for a traveling exhibit of the Smithsonian Institute, Alabama Southern College in Demopolis eagerly accepted the challenge.

We were also given the option of dates for the exhibition.

Without blinking, we selected December 1, 2006, through January 14, 2007.

This was done precisely to coincide with “Christmas On the River,” and while its theme “Between Fences” does not exactly correlate with the intended honor to our military as the COTR theme this year, the opportunity to bring to Demopolis and to the Black Belt an exhibit from the Smithsonian Institute was one which was too inviting to defer.

The exhibit will be housed on the Demopolis Campus of Alabama Southern College in the Demopolis University Center located in the Demopolis Sports-Plex.

And the only reason I am now beginning to trumpet its arrival is so that those of you who think that COTR is something which happens all of a sudden in early December, do not seem to understand that its planning and managing are already well under weigh.

Jack Cooley has already begun meetings with his various committees and sub-committees and from all early indications, this COTR is beginning to stack up as one of the best ever!

And this is the very reason we at Alabama Southern wanted to join the parade, to to say, and get on board with something special which can add to the climate of festive activities associated with COTR.

This exhibit, entitled “Between Fences,” is part of the Smithsonian’s Museums on Main Street (MOMS) and sets up various exhibits which travel throughout the Nation to promote not only the particular themes, but the vastness of the Smithsonian Institute, a true national treasure.

This particular exhibit presents the development and significance of fences/walls and how they have affected the total landscape of our great country.

When we speak of “total landscape” we include the economic, political, social, and even literary elements of the human condition in America.

Such sub-themes as “Don’t Fence Me In” from a very old and favorite song, “Good fences make good neighbors” from Robert Frost’s poem, “The Great Fence Crisis” which was precipitated by farmers and cattlemen over the introduction of barbed-wire fences, along with the simple fact of what fences/walls actually stand for will occupy the structure of this exhibition.

One of the truly great honors associated with this exhibit is the fact that Alabama Southern will be one of only six locations throughout the entire State of Alabama which will serve as a host . And while other sites will focus on their local histories on the theme of fence development, the advantage that we will have here in Demopolis is that this will add to the gravity of our annual festival – after all, when was the last time COTR could boast that as part of their activities an exhibit from the Smithsonian Institute will be another attraction?

There is no denying that COTR is a vital event for Demopolis and the surrounding region.

Anything any of us can do to enhance and build its attractiveness and significance is of great importance.

As we get closer to COTR, there will be more information about the Smithsonian exhibit.

We will need docents (guides), assistants in helping to assemble the entire exhibit, and visitors, both local and out-of-towners.

We will be contacting you for your assistance – but what is more, is that we are proud to be a part of the Demopolis Annual Festival, “Christmas On the River.”

-Dr. Arthur Ogden is the Campus Director for Alabama Southern’s Demopolis Campus and holds all his degrees in philosophy.

He can be reached at