After 125 years, the Ladies' Hermitage Association is getting a new name, a new focus on President Andrew Jackson and a national board of trustees that includes a familiar face from Wilson County's business community, CedarStone Bank President Bob McDonald.
Joining McDonald on the board of the Andrew Jackson Foundation (formerly the Ladies' Hermitage Association) are nationally known figures such as National Public Radio journalist Mara Liasson and two Pulitzer Prize winners, historian Jon Meacham and Charles Overby, former CEO of the Freedom Forum and the Newseum.
The changes to its name and board composition are part of a multiyear plan that will refocus attention and debate on Jackson and his presidency, on his relevance to the 21st century and on the historic site he called home, The Hermitage.
"Like Mount Vernon and Monticello, The Hermitage is a national treasure," McDonald, also chairman of the board of trust of Cumberland University and formerly chairman of United Way of Wilson County and of the Lebanon Wilson County Chamber of Commerce, said. "Andrew Jackson's presidency came at a pivotal time for a young America. We are developing new ways to explore his life and presidency at The Hermitage and in the historical discussion."
The Hermitage CEO, Howard Kittell, described the expansion to a national board of directors as one of the first steps toward a new focus on Jackson and the facility.
"Andrew Jackson's presidency was a watershed in the making of America," Kittell remarked. "Any study of the early days of our country quite naturally brings one to The Hermitage, where we have preserved the estate much as it was in Jackson's time. We have many exciting new plans for 2015, and I am grateful to have such a distinguished board to help lead us in the years ahead."
In another step toward a new focus on Jackson's life and legacy, The Hermitage also unveiled a new logo and tagline. The home of America's seventh president will now carry the banner "Andrew Jackson's Hermitage: Home of the People's President."
The changes reflect a shift in focus from the house to the man, following the path of peer institutions like George Washington's Mount Vernon and Thomas Jefferson's Monticello.
Jackson's Hermitage to launch new exhibit, allow military in free in 2015
To commemorate the bicentennial anniversary of the Battle of New Orleans, The Hermitage will launch a major new $1.1 million exhibit on Jan. 8. As part of its commemoration of Jackson's astounding victory at New Orleans, The Hermitage will also invite all U.S. military personnel, active and retired, to visit the home of the nation's seventh president free of charge in 2015.
The new exhibit, titled Andrew Jackson: Born for a Storm, marks the first comprehensive change to the exhibit content in the Andrew Jackson Center in 25 years. Born for a Storm is part of a new campaign to revisit Jackson's place in history and shift the focus of the National Landmark site from the mansion to the man. The name of the exhibit comes from a famous Jackson quote: "I was born for a storm, and a calm does not suit me."
McDonald said the new exhibit will "totally transform" exhibit space at The Hermitage.
"We'll have all new interactive features and updated imagery in addition to all of the rare and unique artifacts that make The Hermitage the most accurately preserved presidential site in the country," he noted.
Visitors to the exhibit will get a new look at Jackson, starting with his early life as a frontiersman through his military and political careers and ending with a look at his legacy - both the negative and the positive aspects of his administration and policies - through new artwork, artifacts interactive elements and interviews with historians like Meacham.
The Hermitage has hired nationally known design firm Solid Light of Louisville, Ky. to develop the new exhibit. Some of Solid Light's past work includes the Delta Blues Museum in Clarksdale, Miss. and the Carnegie Center for Art & History in New Albany, Ind.
Admission to the site will be free and open to all on Jan. 8 to encourage the public to take part in the celebration, which will include a keynote speech from presidential biographer and Jackson scholar H.W. Brands from the University of Texas at Austin and demonstrations and programs honoring the military.