Governor’s School: Part One

This June, twenty-nine high school students enrolled in the Governor’s School for the Scientific Exploration of Tennessee Heritage at East Tennessee State University have the opportunity to spend four days in the Archives of Appalachia learning about the archival process and arranging and describing a portion of the Empire Furniture Company Records. The first half of the group finished their archival experience last week and on their last day, they wrote about their fieldwork. Here is what they had to say:

Written By:

Kyle Sills, Sarah Adinolfi, Will Mosely, Emily Masters, Hailey Ung, Faith Jackson, Schuyler Daniel, Luke Hornby, Shelbi Releford, Rex Parker, Holly Moran, James Spears, Skylar Kelley, and Lily Haskins.

Day 1:

Arriving at the archives on the first day, we received a hands-on tour of the archives beginning with timeworn literature pertaining to the Appalachian region, followed by a tour of the appropriate storage rooms for certain documents such as rooms with rolling stacks, stationary shelving, and climate controlled environments.

Taken during the group tour in the stationary storage room while looking at the 40 pound property tax book from the Washington County Court Records.

After we were given a brief introduction of the archival preservation process, we were given latex gloves, masks, and a few boxes of documents from the Empire Furniture Company to sort through.

The group during our first taste of archival preservation.

In these boxes, we found many aged documents which we had to clean and arrange.

Lily digging into a sealed envelope for secret information
Lily digging into a sealed envelope for secret information.

Day 2:

On day two of our archival experience, we looked through [and appraised] a myriad of boxes full of 20% materials to be disposed of and 80% relevant documents.

The team engages in blueprint sorting.

Our main objective was to organize the documents we uncovered into categorized folders, which we did flawlessly.

The team furiously sifts through documents.

At the end of the day, not only did we learn the importance of archives and preservation, but also how to melodiously work in groups, whilst uncovering intriguing and mysterious historical documents that would lead us down new paths in each of our lives.

All fourteen students had to debate the final collection arrangement for seventeen boxes from the Empire Furniture Company Records and line them accordingly in the hallway.

Day 3:

On Day 3, all of the students diverged into two factions. We learned of different types of photographs, book bindings and paper making. When Ms. Laura Smith was pontificating on book binding, we learned how the pages are stitched together and how pages were marbled.

We also learned how to preserve old newspaper articles, other types of paper documents, and film. For example, the humidification system helped to flatten an old, rolled up map.

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Finally, we split into different groups to analyze the documents we discovered in the Empire Furniture Collection and wrote a finding aid for the collection. Making a finding aid was important because researchers need to be able to search for a keyword in the databases.

Working on the finding aid.
Working on the finding aid.


Stay tuned for the second group’s account which will be posted on June 26.


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