Recently, Laura Smith, the Education and Outreach Archivist for the Archives of Appalachia in Johnson City, gave me a wonderful tour of the facility. Located on the 4th floor of the Sherrod Library at East Tennessee State University, the archives has a collecting mission to preserve the culture and history of Appalachia as well as the history and records of the university. Here is a behind the scenes look at the archives and a peek at just some of the many collections available for patron research.
This includes display space, a research room, computer stations, and a new education room.
Display case outside the entrance to the archives.
Patron computers to the left and reading tables to the right. In the background, those famous rocking chairs overlooking a beautiful view of campus and surrounding mountains.
The archives now has a nice quiet place to hold classes and workshops without disturbing patrons who are researching.
MEDIA PRESERVATION LAB
This is where specialist John Fleenor performs his magic. As Media Collections Manager, John preserves original recordings and film by transferring them to playable, digital formats according the highest archival standards. He also makes repairs to original media and maintains playback equipment.
You could practically spend the whole morning just touring this lab.
These open reel audio tapes of bluegrass music from the Bernard Rousseau Collection are being re-copied using a method that will preserve a higher quality than was previously possible.
This room houses the volumes from the university’s special collection library, patron listening copies, subject files, journals, and more.
Some of the special collection shelving. See the feature image above.
These shelves contain patron listening copies of vintage recordings and oral histories. These recordings are part of what makes the Archives of Appalachia so special.
The huge CD collection. If there is a recording you want to listen to, it’s probably here.
The subject files contain collections that are too small to be on their own, or like items that are amassed from small donations. Here are 1930s football programs from “Johnson City” high.
A sampling of special collection books.
Laura was such a generous guide. She pulled collection items in advance and had them arranged on tables in each room throughout the archives. She displayed her favorites, or things that really highlight the archives’ offerings, or items she thought I would especially like. On the left, a booklet written by Muriel Spoden and, on the right, the printer’s mark from a beautiful book printed at the Kingsport Press.
Copies of The Comet, one of Johnson City’s earliest papers.
Map cases for maps and other oversized materials.
An early map of Johnson City. Notice the legend differentiating “paved,” “unimproved,” and “unopened” roads.
SPECIAL ENVIRONMENT STORAGE
This room is maintained at a specific humidity and temperature for the storage of photographs, negatives, and audiotape.
An expandable shelving system stores media efficiently.
Notice the environmental control system in front of the support pillar and tables in the background with archival goodies to see!
Special photograph albums from some of the family collections in the archives.
Glass plate negative of an early baseball game.
Another glass plate negative from the university collections. Laura makes an excellent hand model.
Clockwise: a tintype print, a framed daguerrotype, and an ambrotype print (1855-65).
Photographs of Jeanne Rasmussen’s 7-year project, “Faces of Appalachia,” which focused on miners and mining tragedies in Appalachia.
Storage for negatives.
Film in cold storage.
The following areas are for staff members to process archival collections and perform conservation tasks.
A clean, sunny work area.
Mold removal freezer.
DOCUMENT STORAGE ROOM (A)
This main storage room houses university records, the huge James H. Quillen Collection, media players, new archival boxes, and many more collections.
Endless expandable shelving keeps important collections orderly.
Just one row of Sen. Quillen’s papers.
Players for all kinds of AV media.
ARCHIVAL STORAGE ROOM (B)
This room houses city, county, and university records, an extensive railroad collection, and an even more extensive record album collection.
The city of Johnson City maintains records which require infrequent access here. To the left, one small section of maps and architectural and engineering drawings in the room.
Vinyl albums are stored in specially made archival boxes.
Some of the records of Washington County are also stored here.
While the county maintains actual ownership of the records, they are still available for patron research in the archives.
19th century court documents.
Carolina, Clinchfield, and Ohio Railroad Collection. The archives is known for their preservation of railroad associated materials and records.
From among the numerous rolled architectural and geological items, Laura selected this map of the Orchard at Altapass, developed by the Clinchfield Railroad. The beautifully drawn map is hand-colored and seen here with a related brochure from the subject files.
From the University’s own collection, two interesting garden club albums, including this needlepoint covered example.
One of my favorite items of the day, an album cover decorated with a three-dimensional shadow box.
Many thanks to Laura Smith for the fantastic tour and to John Fleenor, Amy Collins, and the rest of the archives staff for their assistance in assuring I had a great experience. You can, too! I hope you will take advantage of the collections and other offerings and plan a visit to ETSU’s Archives of Appalachia, soon.
The Archives of Appalachia
ETSU, Sherrod Library rm 442
Mon-Fri 9:00 am – 4:30 pm
Archives of Appalachia Blog
Orchard at Altapass, North Carolina
Jeanne M. Rasmussen Papers, finding aid