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’Life without Doris:
Folklife Museum director retires after 21 years

Doris Woods Owens, Farragut Folklife Museum director for 15 years, is resigning as of Tuesday, Jan. 15.

“I’ve had 21 great years [working at the museum] – loved every minute of it,” Owens said. “I’ve been the director since [1992]. I guess it’s time to get somebody new in.”

Owens is only the second director in the museum’s history.

“When it came time for [first director] Mary Nell [McFee] to resign due to ill health, [former Farragut Mayor Robert] ‘Bob’ [Leonard] asked me to do it. He’s been with me the whole time. He’s been awfully good to me; I owe him a lot,” she said.

The museum started out as a temporary exhibit in 1986.

“[McFee] and I set up the first committee. Mayor Bob Leonard asked us to do that,” she said. “It was a Tennessee Homecoming ’86 exhibit.”

Owens had grown up in the area, so she knew much of the history, but was a music teacher and assistant principal in Miami, Fla., for several years.

“I had come home in 1982 and my parents died in [1983] and [1985], that’s why I came home early. I had to take an early retirement. I guess I was at loose ends and really needed something,” she said. “[McFee] asked me to do an early photographs museum. She must’ve remembered I had a lot of old photographs and knew who to ask to get some.

“We worked in [Bill Dunlap’s] studio in Concord and worked on old photographs. It was tremendous. I grew up with him and never realized he was that talented or that we would be that close.”

The exhibit, which was originally planned to be open for three weeks, “had everything in the way of photographs. We also had some Indian artifacts; Mac Abel and Frances [Abel] had some old clothing they’d gotten in the attic of their old house,” she added. “People came for three weeks, and it was so successful, the mayor asked us to keep it open for three more weeks if we could. We were really sorry to have to close up. About October, I believe, Bob Leonard asked us again to set up a committee and set up a permanent [museum].”

Owens said there’s a lot of work involved in being the director.

“The thing about the director in this case, there’s forms and things to send to Nashville, to the Historical Commission, things like that. I realized that if I was going to answer all these things, especially the ones to Nashville because they wanted a year-end calendar report, I had to make all the forms, keep all the records,” she added. “I guess this’ll be my last year to do that.”

Though the resignation should free up plenty of time for Owens, she said she hasn’t given much thought to it because she’s been so busy with book of photographs she’s compiling.

“There will be a time when things will slow down, but right now I’m so into this book that I haven’t had time to think about it,” she added. “I had planned to write the births and deaths of the town, and this might give me some time. I might write my life story.”

All royalties from the book of photographs, titled “Images of America: Concord/Farragut,” will go to museum, she said. It should be out mid-year 2008.

As for favorite memories, Owens said, “They’re all favorites. I have always enjoyed every minute of the museum.”

Owens’ replacement has not been determined as of print time.

“I don’t know anything about who will replace me. The next [Farragut Folklife Museum Committee] meeting is [Tuesday, Jan. 22], but I won’t be there for that,” she said.

She isn’t the only one to replace. Roberta Jones “is retiring too,” she added. “She tried to several months ago, but I talked her into staying with me. She’s been doing the exhibits and keeping up with things.”


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