There’s a new archival exhibit at the Kingsport Public Library. From the Boat Yard era to Modern Kingsport, churches have played an important part of town history. This post is dedicated to my late friend Michael Frazier who was the music minister for Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Kingsport, TN, and passed away in January 2013. I thought of Michael the entire time I worked on this exhibit. Michael loved the people and music of all religions. He had such an appreciation for the contributions each one makes to society. If he were here, today, I would say, “This is for you Michael. Thank you for all you have taught me!”
I thought it might be interesting for readers to see a bit of the process of curating an exhibit so I have snapped a few behind-the-scenes pictures for today’s blog.
I started by using the Archives website search engine and entering the term “church.”
After reading the descriptions within the finding aid of each collection, I made a list of 25 and noted the box and folder number for the contents I was interested in. After printing the list, I grabbed a cart and hit the archival stacks. It took about 10 hours to to go through each collection, pull the items I wanted, make a note of their location on my list, and leave a notated book mark in the box. More than twenty churches are represented in the exhibit.
Next, I transfered the measurements of the display cases to work tables and marked the parameters with rulers. Then, I layed out the exhibit items, leaving room for narrative labels, and fussed with placement until I was happy with the effect.
Ultimately, after cleaning the glass and removing any lint from the velvet, I installed the exhibit. Sometimes when I install a new exhibit, I handle priceless items and so I am very grateful to the library security guards who’ve made it a practice to stay very close by while I work.
As usual, I developed a few favorites while curating the exhibit. How interesting to learn the stories behind First Methodist and Broad Street Methodist combining, or how Maple Street and Fairfield Methodists merged not only congregations, but names, as well, and became Mafair Methodist. In the early 1800s of the Boat Yard days, a group of believers gathered, eventually secured a minister and founded what we know, today, as Old Kingsport Presbyterian Church. The items the archives has representing their history are more than worth a visit to the archives.
Many of Rev. Rogan’s sermons are housed in the Reverend Daniel Rogan, Jr. and Family Collection, KCMC 105. Most are in excellent condition, quite legible, fascinating, and date between 1846-1867. Rogan died in 1881.
The Archives of the City of Kingsport is fortunate to have the studio collections of several early Kingsport commercial photographers such as McNeer, McDowell, Swann, and Peirce. They had a way of capturing congregations, choirs, ministers, and children that illustrated their characters and personalities.
Lastly, I spent entirely too much time caught up in the history of Crossroads United Methodist Church. Locals may remember it started out as West View Park on the corner of Stone Dr. and Fairview. Established in 1932, the chapel was dedicated in 1942, underwent a name change to Stone Dr. Methodist in 1961, and was expanded in 1969. It was finally decided that a declining community population and expanding highway necessitated a move to the Allandale area of town. I have put the keys in the exhibit to represent these many developments in the church’s story. (I guess I could have included a prescription bottle, because on that corner, now, stands a Walgreen’s.)
If you want to know more about a Kingsport church’s history, please visit the exhibit, make use of the archives’ website, and view their Pinterest board on the subject. “Safely Gathered In: A Brief History of Kingsport Churches” will be on display until early May, 2015.
Featured image: The congregation of Barton’s Chapel Primitive Baptist Church, 1952.