Well, now there's an exhibit about him at the City of Raleigh Museum.
So I got to thinking about this Lawson project, and all the maps, and the backpacks, and the shoes, and the stuff -- feathers and rocks and shells and roadside ditch trash -- that along with the writing and the images made the experience so rich for me. So I reached out to a couple museums and almost instantly the City of Raleigh Museum came on board. Their exhibits follow an approach they describe as "then, now, and next," and that's of course been the Lawson Trek's ethos from the drop. So over the last many months we met, wrote, shared images, rethought, rewrote, and came up with something. The first time I saw it was when they sent me a picture of what they had worked up.
In addition, it had my backpack and the pair of trail runners I wore out on the trek, leaning there against a display cabinet filled with objects from my project. There's an arrow given to me by John "Blackfeather" Jeffries of the Occaneechee, and a turkey feather that I found along the way. The arrow has flights made from similar feathers, so I like the two together. There are shards of granite from a quarry that sits today where Lawson described an enormous granite outcropping. There are Sewee pottery sherds from coastal South Carolina and Catawba shards that one of the owners of Ivy Place south of Charlotte dug up simply by scraping his boot heel in the dirt; that's how present the past is even today in the rich Carolina earth. A modern piece of Catawba pottery is in the cabinet too. There are even crushed beer cans, which we saw a lot of.
To be honest, it was pretty amazing to see. It didn't look much like the exhibit Outside Magazine article described, but I think it does a great job of describing the project. More, it does a great job of putting Lawson into modern context, and when I think back on it, that's exactly what I was looking for when I first heard about Lawson and went in search of a book connecting his world to ours.
It opened on Friday, Oct. 4, and it was an enormous charge to watch people go through the exhibit. In the first place, it was just great to see my friends and just regular people actually looking at all this stuff that has been so important to me for about a decade. More, I saw person after person browse around, look here and there, and then go to banner one, then proceed to banner two, and continue on their way.
That reminded me of what I used to call "rooting for the jump" when I wrote for papers and magazines in Philadelphia. I used to not uncommonly find myself on the train or subway, standing in the aisle, and noticing someone reading something I had written. I would watch and wait until they got to the end of a segment of the story, and find the "continued on page ..." line -- journalists call the next part the jump.