updated 5/25/2007 2:22:15 PM ET 2007-05-25T18:22:15

The Museum of Appalachia has been named an official affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution.

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The new relationship announced Wednesday opens doors to partnerships with the Smithsonian's outreach units, including study tours, workshops, lectures and curriculum development with local schools.

Founded in 1969 by John Rice Irwin, the Museum of Appalachia has grown from a single log building to an extensive village-farm complex encompassing more than 35 historic log structures, several exhibition buildings and some 250,000 artifacts.

It is located 16 miles north of Knoxville.

Harold Closter, director of the Smithsonian's affiliates program, called the museum "an American treasure (that) stands alone as a tribute to the American spirit. (It) is about family, country, hard work and respect for tradition."

Closter gave special recognition to Irwin, a McArthur Foundation "genius" grant winner.

"I don't know if any of us can truly comprehend what it takes to create a museum from scratch, especially one with the breadth of the Museum of Appalachia," he said. "Few people have this gift, and John is a pioneer in the preservation community."

Irwin called the Smithsonian affiliation "another milestone in the museum's continued growth and improvement."

The Smithsonian recently awarded similar status to the American Airpower Heritage Museum in Texas, the Irving Arts Center in Texas and the Long Island Museum of American Art, History and Carriages in New York.

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