Pine Mountain Settlement School
Series 00: ARCHIVES
The ARCHIVE at Pine Mountain is more than just a room of material about dead people and disappeared buildings and mountainsides. It is the aggregate of the fully sentient institution. Pine Mountain Settlement School IS an archive, a special collection, a national treasure, and a very difficult entity to fully gather under the rubric of the traditional “ARCHIVE.” It is a protected National Historic Register site, but that is a preservation title. There is more to tell.
TAGS: Archive About; archives; Pine Mountain Settlement School; local history; Pine Mountain Valley; National Heritage site; education; metadata; indexing; finding aids; cataloging; assessment reports; conservation; preservation; correspondence; libraries; storage; archive resources; guides; inventory guidelines; disposition schedules; special collections rationale; Helen Wykle; Ann Angel Eberhardt; Preston Jones; Pine Mountain Settlement School Board of Trustees; Education Committee; Elanor Burkhard Brawner; Mary Rogers; volunteers;
The ARCHIVE at Pine Mountain joins the historical collections of the handful of surviving rural settlement institutions of Appalachia. Under the title of Settlement Institutions of Appalachia (SIA), these institutions joined in a partnership in the early 1980s to develop a conservation and preservation strategy that would protect their unique historical collections that detail a unique, poorly characterized and often stereotyped people. The conservation medium chosen for the SAA preservation project and the institutional record of Pine Mountain Settlement School and the community it represents and serves, was largely microfilm and contact prints of photographs. That incomplete “archive” of surrogates lives in the Berea College Special Collections.
The ARCHIVE at Pine Mountain Settlement School IS that special collection and wrapped around it IS the Pine Mountain Settlement School and the community that created it. The Pine Mountain Settlement School Collections is an archive that does not lend itself well to boxes and shelves.
The following is the description of the Pine Mountain Settlement School collections held on microfilm at Berea College
Restrictions: Records and photographs can be accessed through the Reading Room, Berea College Special Collections and Archives, Hutchins Library, Berea College.https://berea.libraryhost.com/index.php?p=collections/controlcard&id=42
Regarding records contained in the collection:
Pine Mountain Settlement School records were collected and organized in 1982. Those having administrative, legal or historical value were microfilmed at the Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives and all then returned to Pine Mountain. The resultant microfilm master negative is owned by Berea College. A user copy is available for researchers. Berea College does not own the copyright for the manuscripts or printed documents included in this microfilm edition. Therefore, it is the researcher’s responsibility to secure permission to publish from Pine Mountain Settlement School or its successors and assigns. Due to the personal information they contain, some records such as student and personnel records may be RESTRICTED.
Regarding photographs in the collection:
Pine Mountain Settlement School photographs were organized and copied in 1985. The copy negatives and a set of copy prints are owned by Berea College. A second set of copy prints and all originals were returned to Pine Mountain Settlement School. Permission has been granted by Pine Mountain Settlement School for Berea College to reproduce all or part of the school’s photographs and to use them in slide or film presentations, display them or loan them for display, and to allow their use by researchers for reproduction and publication. The proper credit line for all of the above uses shall be, “Pine Mountain Settlement School Photographic Collection, Berea College Southern Appalachian Archives.” Records and photographs can be accessed through the Reading Room, Berea College Special Collections and Archives, Hutchins Library, Berea College.
The standard film preservation practice of contact prints for photograph material and microfilm for documents has given the Pine Mountain Settlement collections some security but it fails to place history within its context — or context within its history — depending on the vantage point. While this valuable preservation process only scratched the surface in 1983-1984, it stirred up a rich soil that is the ARCHIVE of Pine Mountain now evolving and growing within a digital world. That world is a world that has redefined “information” as well as preservation, conservation, and ownership.
Claude Shannon, who along with Alan Turing, was a noted cryptographer and code breaker, told us long ago that “Information, though related to the everyday meaning of the word, should not be confused with it.” This can certainly be said of collections gathered within their communities of origin. Information is, as our contemporary author James Gleick tells us, “uncertainty, surprise, difficulty, and entropy.” This describes many of the small local archives scattered throughout the world. [James Glick, The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood,2011 ]
At Pine Mountain Settlement School the deep forest, open fields, pristine air and water, the surrounding community with its sincere, bright, devotional, and struggling population; the 24 buildings, stonework, trails, and play equipment; the 25 and more staff that annually hold the programs in their care; the many events that stick to the visual and auditory memory of those who have stayed long enough to be captured by the magic of the place —–this is what is hidden behind the standard descriptions of place found in the Pine Mountain Settlement School collections.
In the deep and isolated valley sandwiched between two mountians, it is the undiscovered and implied information resources that are the deep definitions of place — though filled often with “uncertainty, surprise, difficulty, and entropy.” A sense of place is what this ARCHIVAL RECORD attempts to capture and reveal. It is not just the structured list of objects, dates, names, deeds, photographs, and now, media that one often finds in online archives — tough there are many of those. The archival collection at Pine Mountain Settlement is an infosphere. It is found in a multitude of dark or brilliant corners of life that overlap with the physical site of Pine Mountain Settlement School; it is where one discovers their own true nature and where an understanding of the Pine Mountain Settlement School community is uniquely discovered . Telling the story of an institution as complex as Pine Mountain is not a tidy business … but, then, neither is life.
The records gathered under ARCHIVE About follow a process but it is one of individual discovery and the attempts that past directors, staff, volunteers, and interested parties have given to the many associated documents. So much more remains to be discovered and created and no-doubt those discoveries will most likely follow the same enigmatic processes that deposited the first one-hundred plus years. The gathering, re-gathering, and the discovering that goes on in an archive all point the way to the multiple definitions and benefits that each user finds in the ARCHIVE collection. This is a collection for the complex communities that helped to create it.
As seen in the records noted below, archives and collections are often contested space. To evoke and to provoke both require emotional engagement. In this age of contestation, archives should to require this emotional engagement. To love, to hate, to reflect, to correct, to change, to question, and to hold close a discovered idea — all these emotions and civic and social responses need to be companions when one enters an archive.
DISCOVER, USE AND LEARN
“Most of the biosphere cannot see the infosphere, it is invisible, a parallel universe humming with ghostly inhabitants … We are aware of the many species of information … Fred Dretske, a philosopher said (1981) ‘In the beginning there was information. The word came later… The transition was achieved by the development of organisms with the capacity for selectively exploiting this information in order to survive and perpetuate their kind.’ We keep them alive in air-conditioned server farms. But we cannot own them … who is master and who is slave?” James Gleick, The Information, p. 323
“The death drive is not a principal. It even threatens every principality, every archontic primacy, every archival desire. It is what we will call, later on, le mal d’archive, ‘archive fever’. Jacques Derrida, Archive Fever p.12
“To arrange a library is to practice in a quiet and modest way, the art of criticism.” Jorge Luis Borges
“… history has always been a critique of social narratives and, in this sense, a rectification of our common memory. Every documentary revolution lies along this same trajectory.” Paul Ricoeur
“Of all the places where documents pool and accrete, people’s desks are undoubtedly my favorite. They offer such a rich snapshot of modern life, of modern practices and pressures. Looking at one is a bit like examining a tidepool. At first it seems static and uninteresting. But once you start to pay attention, you begin to see what a complex eco-system is present, and how much richly structured and diverse activity is going on right before your eyes.”David M. Levy, (2001) Scrolling Forward: Making sense of documents in the digital age, p.121
Melville Dewey, author of the Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC) System had a super sense of time and archiving. According to author Dee Garrison*, Dewey had an obsessive-compulsive desire to control his world — a characteristic often unjustly assigned to librarians and archivists, but justly assigned to oligarchs.
“The attempt to control all eventualities, presented time as a special problem to Dewey. Time, an enemy to be overcome, was a threat to all his plans and projects. Since a guarantee of the future was his prime concern, he experienced time in the present as being wasted unless it were filled to the brim. The present did not have significance in itself because his interest was solely in the future .. Dewey sought to dismiss time as a realistic limitation on his life. He craved certitude — desired to foretell, foresee, and exert control before the fact. Thus Dewey’s lifelong concentration on detail is best understood as a measure of self -protection.”Dee Garrison, (2003) Apostles of Culture.
Archives and archivists are not neutral. Further, there is no stability in today’s digital archive and “archivist” seems to have lost its aura. Archives, like closed collections of any kind, often serve no function other than providing rent or bragging rights, or exclusivity. Archives were not created only for the ubiquitous archive user, the scholar — or for the historian, or for the genealogist. To know an archive it is important to understand the institutional value and the evidentiary value of collections. It is also important that today’s archives bridge divides and look to the communities that create long tails and tales of information gathered about them. Open archives, digital archives, community collections, have a larger audience than they have ever known — and greater responsibility.
It is the belief of the creators of this digital archive that in the near future archives and community collections will need to look toward a broader spectrum of use and definition. Reaching marginalized communities is a noble desire, but without a doubt, some collections will also be used for nefarious purposes. As a nation, a joined world, we are all of us the “Scholar,” the information gatherer, the interpreter, and we all need to guard our identity through responsible research and curation of our shared collections. At Pine Mountain Settlement we try to be good stewards and encourage the use of the PMSS archive ON SITE where its full scope may be realized and where the purpose of the archive may be fully realized and respected.
On a basic level, most of us want to know who our ancestors were as part of our own identity and possibly destiny. We want to explore gender bias, cultural diversity, morals and the multiple mentalities that make us tick or make us sick. At Pine Mountain Settlement and in the surrounding community we want to evaluate our past practice against our current practice to determine if we are doing our best to sustain, organize and retain our workers and serve and reflect our community and practice responsible environmentalism. We want to maintain our mission consistent with ideals that move us responsibly forward. Archives and collections gather the past but they are also roadmaps pointing us to our future. As archivists, librarians, and collection managers, we are charged with processing the PAST and the FUTURE. We can only do a good job if we are in partnership with the entity that creates social memory — the communities of interest. In a land of contested borders AND contested information, we, the editors, attempt to understand and to move in this effort with caution and concern and love.
“It has never been the archivist’s responsibility to provide a descriptive finding aid that is responsive to all the questions of all of their users all of the time.”
“Closed archives affect historical understanding.” … and empathyFrancis X. Blouin Jr. and William G. Rosenberg, (2011) Processing the Past: Contesting Authority in History and the Archives, p.155.
ARCHIVE PINE MOUNTAIN SETTLEMENT SCHOOL COLLECTIONS: Editors
Ann Angel Eberhardt (co-editor)
Helen Hayes Wykle (co-editor)
Pine Mountain Settlement School (Board of Trustees)
[Photo: Elanor Burkhard Brawner]