A Unit of the Center for Appalachian Studies & Services at East Tennessee State University
This June, twenty-nine high school students enrolled in the Governor’s School Program 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 second half of the group just finished their archival experience and was asked to write about their fieldwork by composing a blog post. Here is what the students had to say:
Written by: Megan Belcher, Shichen Zhang, Valerie Romanko, Kyla Scott, Allison Bland, Desteni Rivers, Hannah Meller, Whitney Spake, Nicholas Harris, Jessica Moore, Aaron Parkey, Paden Robertson, Sarah Hampton, Cheyenne Carpenter, Victoria Shoaff
The first day at our Archives field experience we toured the Archives of Appalachia at Sherrod Library. We explored the special collections room and inspected historic documents.
Next, we went to the environmentally controlled room. That room housed photographs and film. After that, we were introduced the cold storage compartment and we learned the conditions of how some documents have to be kept. The last stop on our tour was the document storage room. That room contained letters, map, blueprints, and books that weighed up to forty pounds. After the tour was done, we reviewed the Empire Furniture Company Records and sorted boxes from the collection. These boxes had documents, such as financial records, receipts, furniture inventory, and shipping orders, and pictures from Empire Furniture Company. While sorting we used latex gloves and masks, so we would not damage the documents and prevent us from breathing dust and mold.
At the start of Day 2, we were split up into four different groups. We were assigned the task to sort through fifteen boxes of documents taken from the Empire Furniture Company. We had to look at the folders within the boxes and analyze each document inside the folders. Our goal for the day was to take note of the types of documents within the folders and come up with a label for each folder, based off of the dominant types of documents within. Once we were done with one box, we moved on to another.
The scope of the documents we were examining ranged from the 1930s to the early 2000s, near the company’s closing. The boxes contained a plethora of documents with a wide variety of purposes. Examples of documents we found included blueprints for machines and circuits, intercompany transactions, notifications sent to employees, shipment orders, company payrolls, and insurance forms. Some documents were not identified as relevant to Empire Furniture Company, and those documents were discarded after careful consideration.
Our final task of the day was to classify the boxes and materials into series based on the content. We had to come up with series titles (such as correspondence, financial, maintenance) and sort the boxes under the series we identified. After they were sorted, we then had to put the series into a logical order. We decided to order it in a way that built the company from the ground up, starting with blueprints, moving on to the employees occupying the building, showing that they were insured, and then showing that the company was producing objects, and so on.
On day three we focused on creating a collection finding aid for the Empire Furniture Company records. We had three tasks: scope and content of the materials, administrative information, and historic note. When completing the scope and content note of the materials, we gave an overview of what could be found in the collection. In administrative information, we gave a description of what types of materials could be found in the collection. In the historic note, we pulled together the history of the Empire Furniture Company and wrote a brief passage. Then as a committee we reviewed our work and compared it to the previous groups work. After, we listened to the media collections manager explain how he preserves media. All in all, the day was a huge success.