Many know Johnny Appleseed as a legendary figure, or even as an eccentric walking barefoot across the country planting seeds.
In reality, John Chapman was an American nursery and conservation pioneer who introduced apple trees and new nursery methods to Ohio and surrounding states in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.
Urbana University, which houses the Johnny Appleseed Educational Center and Museum, is creating a traveling interactive exhibit on Chapman’s life to separate the man from the myth and celebrate his contributions.
The exhibit is tentatively scheduled to open in September of 2015 at the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery’s satellite location in the Upper Valley Mall in Springfield, according to Cheryl Ogden, Director of the Johnny Appleseed Educational Center and Museum.
An anonymous $30,000 donation is making the exhibit possible.
“He was a real and remarkable man, not an eccentric flinging apple seeds around,” said Ogden. “The primary mission we have is to educate the people about John Chapman. That can be a real balancing act.”
It will explain questions like why Chapman always went barefoot, sleeping on floors and in the outdoors. Besides Ohio, he established nurseries in Indiana, Illinois, Pennsylvania and parts of West Virginia, usually in anticipation of new waves of settlers.
Champaign County was one of the sites Chapman planted apple trees in.
The museum on the university campus houses artifacts and literature about Chapman’s life, including a reproduction of his birth certificate and items donated by his family. Chapman never married and had no direct descendants.
The traveling exhibit will display items from the museum’s storage collection. They will be augmented by apps for smartphones and tablets.
“The goal is to take it national,” said Ogden. “We have a lot to share on the life of John Chapman.”
Fees from rental of the exhibit will go toward sustaining the Johnny Appleseed museum.
The Johnny Appleseed Educational Center and Museum is located in Bailey Hall on the Urbana University campus. It is open 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays and 11 a.m.-4 p.m. on Saturdays.
Admission is $3 and ages 12-and-under are admitted free.
For more information, call 937-484-1303 or visit www.urbana.edu/resources/community/johnny-appleseed html