The Aliceville Museum and Cultural Arts Center has four very unique exhibits and is one of the best of the smaller Alabama museums.
It is located in the downtown section of Aliceville and is 36 miles west of its bigger and better-known sister city of Tuscaloosa.
It has grown from a single room display area in the public library, to a very large museum.
It encompasses three different buildings, and also includes a courtyard and a plaza, and has been opened since the year 1995.
This small Alabama town played a major role during World War II, and this story is told in one of the four exhibits.
This story also played a major role in the development of the museum.
The Aliceville Museum and Cultural Arts Center has a very unique and interesting history, starting with the city itself and how the museum came about.
The town of Aliceville was founded in the year 1902, where there was only one store in the entire settlement.
It was named after the wife of the founder, Mr. John Cochrane, who was a railroad magnet.
Most of the items that are in the four major exhibits have been donated or are on loan from people that have lived or currently live in the immediate area.
Once the home of Camp Aliceville, a prisoner-of-war camp, it held a reunion in the year 1989.
This reunion was sponsored by the Aliceville Area Chamber of Commerce, and they invited several people to this special reunion.
Those invited included former American military guards, civilian employees that were associated with the prison camp, as well as former German POW’s.
The reunion was set up as a friendship gesture to all of the invited parties, and as part of the reunion, there were several artifacts present.
The city was in need of a home for these artifacts, and it was during this union that the Aliceville Museum and Cultural Arts Center was born.
The city members were shocked when the Meridian Coco-Cola Bottling plant donated two large buildings, to start their museum.
The buildings that were so generously donated had served as the Aliceville Coca-Cola bottling plant from the years 1948 to 1978.
But that was not the end of the donations, as the Harry West family also donated the plaza that was next to the buildings as well.
The Aliceville Museum and Cultural Arts Center officially opened in 1995, and it was incorporated as a not-for-profit corporation.
The funds to operate it are raised from private donations, but there are also special projects that are funded by private and public grants.
On average, about 3,000 visitors go through the museum, and it is not only one of the best of the Alabama smaller museums, but also one of the State’s best kept secrets.
There are four major exhibits at the Aliceville Museum, and they include the following.
The America Heroes Exhibit
The first major exhibit at the Aliceville Museum is the American Heroes Exhibit.
This exhibit was set up to honor and preserve the role that Veterans from the State of Alabama played in the country’s major wars.
It covers all the branches of the military and starts at the Revolutionary and continues to the current era in history.
This exhibit features numerous artifacts including several uniforms, weapons, as well as military related photos.
There are also model planes from the World War II era hanging over this exhibit.
In this exhibit you can learn about James McRory, who was the bodyguard to General George Washington and is buried in Vienna Alabama.
You can also learn about Lt. Colonel Alva Temple, who was a member of the Tuskegee Airman’s Red Tail.
There are other Alabama natives featured such as Staff Sergeant Tommy Seay Little, who died in the Iraq War.
The Aliceville Alabama Exhibit
Next on the list of the four exhibits at the Aliceville Museum is the story about the town it sets in, the Aliceville Alabama exhibit.
If the early 1900’s, a railroad magnet by the name of John Cochrane, built a railroad station for railroad he owned, the Carrollton Short Line Railroad.
This railroad linked the communities of Bridgeville as well as Franconia, to what is known today as the city of Aliceville.
He named the town after his wife, Alyce Cochrane, and this exhibit traces this history.
It starts at the founding of the town in the year 1902 to today, and it has several artifacts to commemorate this founding.
They include antique household items of the times, vintage women’s dresses, as well as photographs and historic maps.
It will take the visitor through the area’s history with the timber and manufacturing industries, as well as farming.
The Coca-Cola Exhibit
The next exhibit at the Aliceville Museum is the Coca-Cola exhibit, which features the story of the site of the museum.
What makes this story so unique is that while there are several old bottling plants across the country, very few of them survived without being torn down.
This one not only survived but lives on as a museum.
This exhibit features all of the original bottling equipment that was used and is still in still in good condition.
Some of the machinery featured includes a very large bottle washer, which at one time was considered the best in the industry.
Also featured in this exhibit is other machinery that was located at an older plant, which was used during World War II.
There are also several old uniforms that were used at the plant on display, as well as numerous Coca-Cola collectibles.
The German POW Exhibit
The most powerful exhibit at the Aliceville Museum is this final one, the German POW exhibit.
During World War II, Camp Aliceville was set up as a Prisoner-of-war camp to hold German soldiers that had been captured.
Located on 800 acres of land, it employed as many as 1,000 military as well as civilian employees and was built to house 6,000 prisoners.
It operated as Camp Aliceville from June of 1942 until September of 1945 and was one of the largest prisoner camps in the country.
Although it was built to hold as many as 6,000 captured soldiers, it never actually held more than 3,500.
The only remaining actual trace of this famous camp is an old stone chimney, but the Aliceville Museum has several of its artifacts.
This POW collection includes artwork, letters, woodwork, camp publications, as well as maps of the location.
There are also numerous photographs, which will help the visitor to relive some of the conditions at the camp.
This exhibit also contains hundreds of donated items by not only Aliceville residents that had connections to the camp, but also POW’s as well.
These four exciting exhibits make this small museum one of Alabama’s best kept secrets.
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