"This project has exceeded our expectations," said Cherry Bailey, of the Barry County Museum. "We have been so proud seeing the way people have come together. This has almost been a celebration.
"A lot of the friends and family of individuals who have items on display have come in to see the exhibits," said Bailey. "You can see the pride that people have regarding these items and their history."
Hundreds of museum visitors have enjoyed touring the 800-square-foot, free-standing display, which offers a selection of photographs, recordings, instruments, lyrics and artist profiles. The exhibit traces the history of American music through a variety of genres.
Visitors have also had the opportunity to view a variety of exhibits that museum staff members constructed to complement the Smithsonian display. These exhibits focus on an assortment of local artists, entertainers and groups, including Red Perriman, Ralph Hilburn, Dale Reed and HomeTown Sound and the RedHots.
The complementary exhibits also feature items that have been loaned by local community members and displays that showcase local music events, such as the Golden Fiddlers' Contest and the McDowell Golden Jubilee.
In addition to touring the museum displays, Barry Countians and southern Missouri visitors have enjoyed attending around 50 different musical performances, six informances and a half dozen children's programs.
"The kids programs have been a lot of fun," said Bailey. "It has been really gratifying to see people showing up for every performance. To know that they are enjoying what we are offering that much is really gratifying."
Over the last six weeks, the most often asked question about the New Harmonies project has been if the museum plans to offer similar entertainment in the future.
"Everyone wants to know if we are going to do this again," said Bailey. "They are really impressed with the fact that we brought the Smithsonian Institute here, and they are hopeful that we will get another chance to bring something similar here. The feedback has been phenomenal."
Although final numbers for June and July are not in yet, Bailey estimates that the percentage of museum visitors is up around 60 percent when compared to the same period last year.
"This has really benefited the public awareness of the museum," said Bailey. "It has also given us an opportunity to partner with other organizations. We want to have more community involvement in the future. We hope to have more opportunities to work with other organizations and get them involved with the museum too."
Through the New Harmonies project, the Barry County Museum received the opportunity to work with several local historical societies and museums. Many local community members also participated in the project.
"I am still amazed with the amount of help we have gotten," said Bailey. "This wouldn't have happened without all of the help. We have worked with the city and the community. This has not been all about the museum. It has been a community-wide effort."
In the future, Bailey hopes the Barry County Museum has the opportunity to host a similar site exhibit. She would also like to see another American Indian music and dance program offered at the museum.
"I would love to see a re-enactment done in conjuction with some of the local Civil War organizations," said Bailey. "I would also like to see Pioneer Days combined with more performances and crafts. We have 20 acres here. It would be the perfect spot for an annual festival.
"I don't want this to end," said Bailey. "Although the exhibit will be going away, I want to remind people that we'll still be here. We change our exhibits every six to eight weeks to make sure we are always offering something new and different."
Bailey also reminds community members that the museum staff enjoys receiving suggestions from members of the public.
"We are here for the community," said Bailey. "If there is something people would like to see, we would love to hear about it. We are always looking for new, different and unique displays."
The Barry County Museum is also always looking for volunteers interested in serving at the museum, which is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from 1 to 5 p.m. on Sunday. The museum is located on Highway 112 south of Cassville.