When I came in to the North Carolina Room’s staff area this past Monday, I was greeted by a folder from the Stumptown 4th Reunion Collection with a sticky note saying it was for me. Zoe explained that the folder was filled with photos which had not yet been scanned and uploaded, even though the collection was on the older side. Apparently, there have been requests for the photographs in the folder to be digitized, so digitizing this collection became a priority over the brochures I was scanning and the John Hayes Collection (which still had no new additions). The reunion seems to include primarily people of African American decent from the Welfare Baptist Church in Stumptown. This church seems to have been closed, though of what its legal status was at the time of this reunion, I am uncertain. The only problem that I had with this collection was more of a fun challenge. That was reading the cursive on the back of each photo, which was faced out of my school by the time I entered the grade it would be taught. Thankfully the writer was not writing in a manner that indicates madness or a deep desire to reinvent the English language like other cursive scripts I have had the displeasure of trying to decipher, so I had an easy time reading it. The folder was finished rather quickly, and then I returned to my tourist brochures and manuals. I am nearing completion of that collection as well.
First, allow me to apologize for the lateness of this blog post.
Now, one to what I have been up to. I have recently caught up with what we have of the John Hayes collection, though more is hopefully coming in Hayes is pleased with my digitization of the collection so far. I have also been working on a new collection. I cannot remember the official title, but the material is almost all tourism booklets, pamphlets, and brochures on Asheville and the surrounding area from between the 1890s to the 1930s. I am excited to be working with some older material, and also a bit nervous, as it is far more sensitive that anything I have worked with so far. Rusted paperclips seem a much greater threat than ever before, as I am getting an in person look at the discoloration and distortion they can cause in a centuries’ time. Many of these clips are so well ingrained in the paper, the sheets of paper need to be taken off of them one at a time. I should also mention I am only scanning these items, and giving each one its own folder title, to be placed into DB Textworks at a later date. One other challenge I have found is dating many of the items, as most were meant to be disposable and dating them was possibly considered a waste of ink. Thankfully many of them advertise popular buildings and resorts that are easy enough to date, such as the Kenilworth Inn. The existence of certain automobiles is also a way to help assign a general age for the pieces. I will end this post by simply remarking that I find it odd, but also rather funny, that Asheville’s place as a tourist city has changed little today.
In regards to the blog post which argued that to remain updated in this contemporary world, archives should do more to interact with the community around them and the wider world, I would agree to a point. Many archives today, such as the North Carolina Room in Pack, already do reach out to the different groups within their own communities, as it is necessary if they want to acquire new documents, photos and other general archival materials. The North Carolina Room also has some small exhibits, a few of which bleed out unto the rest of the Pack Library, which highlight local history. These are fun little uses of archives materials. While I am uncertain as to whether or not the North Carolina Room has something like this, I also agree with the concept of entertainment oriented websites run by different archives that use archived materials to entertain, such as the website dedicated to mustaches. These uses of archival material show people, who may only have vague ideas of what an archive is, that they are places in which records are not only kept safe and housed, but also places which can celebrate these records, and the community they belong to. But I believe it is also important that people are made to understand how precious these records are, and how they must be cared for and preserved, before they are used. While connecting with the outside world is important for archives, it should always have an end goal of preservation.
In going through the photos of the John Hayes collection, I am reminded of the video we watched which discussed the archived photos of formerly prosperous African-American communities that have been destroyed by development. The Hillcrest housing and apartments is a predominantly African-American area, and the photos show some of the parades, sports activities, and community improvement programs that took place in the area because of the Hillcrest Enrichment Program. These photos are a look at that resent past of the Hillcrest area, and proof that the area is, and has been since the 1980s, a thriving community. Asheville itself has a rather unfortunate history of destroying African-American communities with its ravenous desire to improve itself, and while these photos may never be used, they could be used in protecting the Hillcrest community.
Aside from organizing the photos and placing them in the plastic sleeves that reside inside a large plastic protective casing, I have also been going through the wonderfully relaxing process of scanning. While it is a fairly simple process, it is time consuming. It is also a great time to see the photos as individual pieces, rather than groupings of the same event. Yet one photo gave me pause. That photo was of the 2001 Hillcrest Majorettes and Drum Corps, and it was a copy of an original photo. This copy is spread over eight pages, and we unfortunately do not have the original, so I got to puzzle it together, get a picture, and put the pages into four different page protectors.
I have finally finished with the Michael Harney collection, and am now onto a new collection which has already been worked upon. This is the John Hayes collection, and it has already been partly compiled by a former volunteer at the North Carolina Room Archives. This is something that can unfortunately happen at an archive, that accepts volunteer work. The volunteer’s time simply does not last as long as is needed for all their projects, and an incomplete mess is left behind. So, I started by simply going through everything and seeing what had been scanned, and what had not been, as well as what the folders in DBTextworks are meant to be centered around. I quickly learned that the majority of the collection had not been scanned, only one book of photos had been. Then, by comparing the rest of the scanned items in the collection with the physical collection, I learned that much of what had been scanned we did not have a physical copy of. After some confusion, Zoe learned that most of what had been scanned had been on loan to Pack, and was never fully donated, so the volunteer had to simply can these items as quickly as possible before they were forfeit. So, after going through everything, I have now begun the process of sorting the written documents into categories.
The question of interpreting sensitive material is hardly one that pertains to the American race based slavery and southern historic memory alone, but rather to all histories in which multiple perspectives on the truth are held. But I luckily only have experience in dealing with white southerners that would prefer to remember slavery as simply another form labor, little different than underpaid factory labor at the beginning of the industrial revolution. In my experience at Vance these white southerners commonly clam up when the subject of slavery comes up during a tour, and where they will ask a variety of questions about the cooking implements or gender norms at the time, they rarely venture questions about the enslaved people that were on the farm. I believe that for many southerners it is because of an unwillingness to learn about the reality of slavery in the U.S. South, as they would prefer to not only live in ignorance, but they would also like to create their own delusional history where slavery was something people agreed to become a part of and never questioned. But it is the purpose of interpreters at historic sites and public historians in general to help break down these dilutions with the power of facts. To help educate people on the reality of the past, instead of some Gone With the Wind fantasy in which slavery is a natural part of capitalist system. Before I finish rambling, I want to simply make not that this is not so for all southerners, in fact the majority want to know what slavery was like in the Appalachia.
This past week has been pleasantly productive, where last week was unfortunately the opposite, as my absence of a blog post no doubt attested. Unlike previous weeks I have not been learning anything new, but rather I have been continuing with the information that I learned in previous weeks, and using it to continue to enter the data of the Michael Harney collection. So far I have completed my first box of this collection, its number being MS370.001, with each folder being given a letter of the alphabet. It was quite auspicious that once the folders that contain magazines were added, there were exactly twenty-six folders, allowing for there to be folders MS370.001A to MS370.001Z. After organizing the piles of miscellaneous articles and documents into folders and giving each folder its own page on DBTextworks, I chose some choice documents from each to scan and place upon the folder’s corresponding DBTextworks page. Not only will these documents be immortalized by digitization, but they will also serve as mouth-wetters for anyone interested in what the folder has to offer. This is useful, as a mere two sentence description of a folder can say too little of what is in the folder, where copies of just a few of the documents inside can speak volumes on exactly how useful this collection may be to one’s research. I have also found that I have been able to get into a flow with my work, enough so that I can listen to radio plays as I work, were before I would lose track of my current task after even a small distraction.