Changing of the Guard

Nyberg takes over
for retiring Carr at Historical Society

Carr credited with reviving
the organization in his 24 years

By Lela Jane Bradshaw
Contributing Writer

(December 2012) – At the end of the year the Jefferson County Historical Society will see the retirement of the man who did so much to shape the organization residents enjoy today. After serving as executive director for 25-plus years, Joe Carr explains his decision to explore new adventures saying, “I will soon be 63, and there are many other things I want to do.”

Joe Carr

Photo provided

Joe Carr has a large
list of travels planned
for his retirement.

Over the coming winter, Carr will be a volunteer ranger at the White Sands National Park in New Mexico and has already arranged to return west to volunteer at Bandelier National Park next fall. He also has plans to enjoy the wildlife on the Queen Charlotte Islands in Canada and to study totem pole making with the Haida Indians.
“For me, the world is still an oyster, waiting to be opened,” Carr says.
For those familiar with Carr’s work at the Historical Society it should come as no surprise that his retirement will prove to be a busy one. When he accepted the position, he faced a number of challenges. The organization had less than 100 members and the society’s artifacts were stored in a small carriage house behind the library. Carr recalls that “the collections were a moldering, rotting jumble of all kinds of things stuffed into trunks, cupboards and drawers. The society owned the Madison Railroad Station, and it was a tumble down wreck. Worse yet, the society owed $50,000 on the building.”
Under Carr’s tenure, he grew JCHS membership to its current tally of more than 400 across the United States. He oversaw the restoration of the Railroad Station, the payoff of its debts, and the establishment of an endowment. For all of his accomplishments, he reflects, “I am most proud of building the County Heritage Center from scratch – planning, raising the money, building it. There was only a vacant lot here when I started.”
Today, Carr can honestly say that “The society is the Smithsonian of Jefferson County,” and he points out that the small museum has been recognized for exceptional service by National Institute of Museum and Library Services with a number of grants.
Diana Hand, office manager at the Historical Society, has worked with Carr for 16 years and cites his many accomplishments among the reasons he will be missed. “That pretty much speaks for itself, what he’s accomplished,” she says. As executive director, she says that Carr, “never takes anything for granted.” “We do have a good friendship and that makes a nice working relationship,” she reflects.
On Nov. 2, John Nyberg was introduced as the new director at the JCHS’ Annual Dinner. Carr expresses confidence in his successor saying, “John will bring fresh energy, ideas and plans to the job.”

John Nyberg


Nyberg previously spent 17 years in Madison, where his wife, Kim, served as the founding director of the Madison Main Street Program. The couple has been living in Hendersonville, Tenn., where Nyberg has been serving as executive director at Historic Rock Castle, an historic site he describes as “devoted to sharing the story of Gen. Daniel Smith, who played a very important role in Tennessee’s early development.”
Nyberg explains the appeal of his new position saying, “Jefferson County is so rich with history, and what is so wonderful is that the people of Madison and Jefferson County put value in their history and are proud of it and willing to share it. There are so many stories that have been and can be shared with Jefferson County residents as well as the visitors to our county. JCHS has been in ‘history sharing business’ for many years.
“During past leadership of the board of directors, staff and volunteers they have created a first-rate facility and follows excellent museum and archive practices.” On a personal level, he said the couple is happy to be back in Madison, and he says of Kim, “I know she is excited about being in the town she loves, as well as sharing Madison with other communities through her consulting business. It will be fun!”
Nyberg is dedicated to the idea that museums should “play an active role in the community and provide cultural gathering place as well as place for ‘hands on experience’ for the visitor.” He said he is excited by the existing programs JCHS already has in place to provide in and out of school educational programs and he looks forward to reaching area youth by continuing and expanding these programs.
“I plan to involve the local high schools and colleges with programs and internship opportunities,” Nyberg said. “I want to create a workshop space within the existing building so that the organization can offer workshops year around to all ages.”
During his time at Rock Castle, Nyberg found success with workshops that allowed visitors exposure to “the traditional crafts of the area.” He is encouraged by the number of cultural events based in Madison, such as the RiverRoots folk festival and the Madison Chautauqua Festival of Art. And he looks forward to exploring ways that the society can partner with these festivals by offering programs and workshops either as a lead up to these events or as a way to build on the enthusiasm they generate during the off season.
Nyberg anticipates a busy winter with plans “to meet and reconnect with local organizations to work on partnering with programs and activities meet with the board of directors for activities for the year.”
Nyberg is dedicated to Madison as more than just a professional historian. He reflects on his return to the town saying, “I love that my family can grow up and live around these special people and places; it will define in some ways who they will be, this community is filled with extended family who share their experiences of the same love towards this place.”

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