The Transylvania Times -

A.T.O.M.'s 'Aesthetically Challenged' Trees Return – Brevard, NC


Last updated 11/18/2020 at 6:35pm

The A.T.O.M. exhibit takes the public to the 1950s and 1960s and includes not only examples of aluminum Christmas trees, but other items that represent the period. (Times photos by Park Baker)

The Transylvania Heritage Museum's A.T.O.M. (Aluminum Tree & Aesthetically Challenged Seasonal Ornament Museum) exhibit is open for the 2020 season.

Aluminum Christmas trees were first commercially manufactured and sold in the mid-to-late 1950s.

They quickly became a must in every modern American family's home and remained popular into the mid-1960s.

This year's A.T.O.M. exhibit highlights the early days of the aluminum tree with a 1950s theme, including a nod to the decade's biggest stars – Marilyn Monroe and Elvis Presley.

Visitors who correctly identify the Elvis hit song portrayed on a pair of decorated trees can enter a drawing for one of two gift prizes. Another grouping of small trees features antique Shiny Brite ornaments on loan from a personal collection.

Shiny Brite ornaments were created by Max Eckhardt in 1937. Foreseeing a break in the supply of hand-blown glass ornaments from Germany in the approaching war, Eckhardt worked with Corning Glass to manufacture clear glass ornaments that were then hand-painted in Eckhardt's factories. Ironically, it was the popularity of aluminum Christmas trees that led to Shiny Brite ornaments decreased popularity.

However, the combination of Shiny Brite ornaments on the shimmering, aluminum trees provides an attractive display of mid-century modern glam. Displays also showcase small wax Christmas figures, photos of Brevard's first Christmas parade with floats, December covers from The Echo, Ecusta's monthly employee publication, and much more.

The museum's Gift Shop carries a variety of unique items created by local crafters.

New this year are blank note cards featuring four of William Austin's photographs from 1950s Brevard Christmas parades and two blank note cards of "The Echo" December covers.

The A.T.O.M. exhibit is open 1 p.m.-7 p.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday through Jan. 9.

The exhibit will be closed on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Volunteer docents ensure safety protocols for social distancing and cleaning are followed, and provide exhibit information and answer questions.

There is no charge for admission, but all donations and proceeds from the Gift Shop benefit the Transylvania Heritage Museum.


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