Pine Mountain Settlement School
Series 00: ARCHIVES
About the Archive
ABOUT THE PINE MOUNTAIN SETTLEMENT SCHOOL ARCHIVE
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, archive and 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 Settlement is more than just a room of material about dead people and disappeared buildings and mountainsides. It is the aggregate of a fully sentient institution and people, as the discovered note above suggests, Pine Mountain Settlement School IS in its totality, an archive, a special collection, a library, a national treasure, and a very difficult entity to fully gather under the rubric of what many believe to be the traditional “ARCHIVE.” It is a protected National Register of Historic Places Site, but that is a preservation title that only begins the process of discovery described by the ARCHIVE materials and the place in its totality.
The Archive, is an integral part of the Pine Mountain Settlement School Collections. It, the Archive, is a documented reference to the institution’s history, the community’s people, the educational experimentation, and the subtle and sometimes not so subtle visions that appeared over many eras. It is the site that is one of the important landmaks on the National Historic Register and that joins the many important collected sites that celebrate the nation’s history. Over the course of more than one hundred years Pine Mountain has much to say and to teach and celebrate. The discreet collections of material in the “archive” include both traditional materials as well as the physical institution itself.
There is little to distinguish between “archive” and “collection.” As the current keepers continually point out, the Pine Mountain Settlement School in its entirety (buildings, grounds, photographs and documents, realia, artifacts, and other recorded material about the School) is “the archive. ” This larger archive is well described in the many distinct and discreet “collections” that live within and without the walls of the Settlement institution’s Library building —- and extend into the surrounding Community. All of this collective memory is often referred to as “The Archive”.
The archive rooms at the Library (formerly called “Boy’s House”) contain materials found frequently in the familiar institutional “archive”. Within the boxes, and the various storage rooms, are collections of books, maps, paintings, drawings, various media (photographs, audio, and video recordings), CDs, etc.), fabric weavings, pottery, carvings, books, ephemera, and other objects. The object collections often hold subtle and deep history, yet, to grasp the full collective archive is to be THERE — on site, walking among and within the built environment, talking to the people, feasting on the flora and fauna of the Settlement School. There is more to know when an Archive thrives within its rich entirety, wrapped within the full institution and community that created it — that is Pine Mountain Settlement School.
SETTLEMENT INSTITUTIONS OF APPALACHIA (SIA)
The ARCHIVE of Pine Mountain Settlement School 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 established a partnership in the early 1980s to develop a conservation and preservation strategy that would protect their unique historical collections and call attention to the collective idea of a “Settlement” institution. These institutions and their collections were described as unique. The collections they held in common were the records of a unique, but poorly characterized, and often stereotyped region. What these institutions shared was some roots within that larger concept called by some the “Settlement Movement”.
These institutions did not share a common mission or philosophy or even philanthropy as reflected in their archives, but all had a stake in saving the region and its people from the ravages of poverty and poor educational opportunity. Their methods and objectives often varied dramatically and their archives capture this diversity. Their archives are not records focused on baptism, in most cases. They are more records of capture and change frozen in the paper record, the photograph, the recorded conversation, film, craft, art, and built environment. The new Settlement Institutions of Appalachia (SIA) archive’s anticipated “save” would capture original documents and images in a new medium, called microfilm — literally “small film.” Microform, the over-arching term for the medium, was a conservation medium popular at the time (1980s) for its supposed longevity if stored under proper conditions. More recently the medium has been appreciated for its staying power, but its use has dropped dramatically as using microform is tedious, and lacks the immediate reward of instantaneous retrieval found in the digital record. In the 1980s microform had good ability to live up to its “preservation” life-span, but, more importantly, it allowed the duplication of collections and the ability to provide a longer-term life for many poorly stored institutional collections. But, it’s less than engaging solution to access, assured that collections became increasingly inaccessible as years passed and only researchers traveled to experience the torture of the microform readers.
Nevertheless, not having the advantage of the prescience of the digital revolution beginning in the late 1990s, Microfilm was chosen for the 1980s SIA archival preservation project. The documents and “contact prints” that duplicated the original material allowed for “off-site” storage and brought many institutional holdings together in one location —Berea College, Kentucky. The contact print (copies) of the photographs in the institutional collections were used to create duplicate sets of the fragile photograph originals and were stored with the microfilmed documents at Berea, the central site of the large project.
The SIA proposal was founded on sound principles of current archival practice and good preservation intentions and most partners came to join the project. There were some partners, however, that were pushed into the collective effort kicking and grumbling. Pine Mountain Settlement was one partner that did not meet the project with enthusiasm and that initially declined to partner in the project.
The SIA correspondence regarding the Pine Mountain Settlement School institution’s eventual formal agreement or “buy-in,” is a record of institutional anxiety. The University of Kentucky assisted in the material physical transfer processes. The university had the equipment to manage the technical microform and film transfers. The copied material, microfilm, and contact prints, were envisioned to represent the core of the various collections and to enable long-term future access to scholars who would come to Berea and use the microform and photo transfers while protecting the original materials left on-site at the institutions. Yet, there was a continuing concern regarding the stewardship of the local archives as it was chequered at best, and facilities were perceived to be almost uniformly poor.
The selected and consequently incomplete “archive” materials gathered in the 1980s are represented in the surrogates (copies) now housed in the Berea College Special Collections. These surrogates appropriately joined original archival materials donated from the various settlement institutions along with that of donors. For many years this body of SIA material represented a “go-to” place for researchers interested in the Central and Southern Appalachians settlement movement, yet the collections and archives were increasingly hidden from those communities that had created the records of their history. In the view of Pine Mountain, the researchers were often overly dependent on the microfilm and few had the patience to methodically move through the reels of film to try to grasp the essence of a community. Compounding the research picture, was the reluctance of some researchers to visit the settlement institutions, and the settlement institutions rarely venturing to Berea to go through the microform holdings. New material related to the SIA institutions most often was directed to Berea further fracturing the fabric of the collections and archives.
It is important to note, however, that the SIA institutions continued to accumulate records and like Pine Mountain, their institutional archives did not end in 1983 but they continued to build on the returned original records. Since 1983 all of those record collections have grown. Today, the condition of the institutional records of the original SIA sites varies and their institutional records are stored (or not) in varying conditions. The ARCHIVE at Pine Mountain Settlement School IS NOT just the surrogate special collection captured within the microform celluloid and the contact prints. That is only a small fraction of the Pine Mountain Settlement School ARCHIVE and efforts to re-house and care for those records continue. It is the post 1983 collections that pose the greatest risks. As the School hosts more reunions and more octogenarians want to recall their Boarding School years, and the younger generations in the Community want to fill in gaps in their family histories, the need to provide access to institutional records grows.
Again, the collection context and its inherent issues were not fully acknowledged by today’s records and property management. But, then, the Pine Mountain Settlement School is an uneasy captive that does not yield up its secrets and joys and sense of place easily. The Pine Mountain Settlement School archival materials at Berea were pulled from their original sites with good intentions and the process made uncomfortable from the beginning, has only grown in complexity as the correspondence suggests.
Living history does not capture well when asked to live within surrogate celluloid, in multi-generation copy photographs, in tightly regulated boxes, and in closed shelves. it often struggles with identity. Yet, archived history can also die from neglect, from being placed in a mausoleum. It can also suffer from a kind of cancer from within when it fails to recognize the need for responsible collection supervision of fragile materials on site. The dilemmas inherent in the Pine Mountain Settlement School surrogates at Berea College and the complex and the poorly processed and integrated ARCHIVE at the Settlement School, present issues in any articulation of the Pine Mountain Settlement School collections . …. and then came DIGITAL.
PINE MOUNTAIN SETTLEMENT SCHOOL AND BEREA COLLEGE
The following is Berea’s description of the Pine Mountain Settlement School collections held on microfilm at the College:
Restrictions: Records and photographs can be accessed through the Reading Room, Berea College Special Collections and Archives, Hutchins Library, Berea College.
Rights: 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. https://berea.libraryhost.com/index.php?p=collections/controlcard&id=42
THE ARCHIVE IN CONTEXT
The standard film preservation practice of contact prints for photograph material and microfilm for documents has given the Pine Mountain Settlement School collections some security but it fails to place the history within its context — or context within its broader settlement institutional histories — depending on the vantage point. While the valuable preservation processes 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 digital world is a world that is redefining the archive and with it, “information” as well as preservation, conservation, ownership and ultimately physical storage and on-site accessability.
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 contemplated of collections gathered within their communities of origin. Information is, as our contemporary author James Gleick tells us in his book The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood (2011)*, that information as an entity is “uncertainty, surprise, difficulty, and entropy.” These views describe many of the small local archives scattered throughout the world — and are suggestive of the enigmatic nature of the Pine Mountain Settlement School archive. It also describes the other Settlement institutions that joined Pine Mountain in the Berea College Settlement Institutions of Appalachia archive.
*[ See, 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, play equipment, cultural collections (most notably Native American artifacts), weaving, native botanical habitats, birds, etc., ; the staff that annually hold programs regarding their care; and the many special 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 beneath the standard descriptions of place. Pine Mountain is the notes hidden in walls, the personal letters of students describing their educational experience, and the passionate letters of the defenders of Pine Mountain Settlement School experiences, walks to Trillum Rock dressed in its Spring garment, squeezing between “Split Rock”, a child’s first glimpse of a beaver, or a dragonfly resting on the mossy rock of Isaac’s Creek, etc., etc. …..
In the deep and isolated valley sandwiched between two mountains, it is the undiscovered and implied information that are the deep definitions of place. Though, as said earlier, 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 institutional and many online archives — though there are many of those in the Pine Mountain Settlement archive. What sticks to the senses are the first-hand accounts and the stories that still abound at the School and the untold stories that happen when the environment surrounds the written and photographed record.
The archival collection at Pine Mountain Settlement is an infosphere of collections. 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 may discover their own true nature and where an understanding of the Pine Mountain Settlement School community is uniquely and often privately revealed and where it resonates — for good or ill —- no matter the place of birth. It is born of the community and it is the community of us all. Telling the story of an institution, a community, as complex as Pine Mountain is not a tidy business … but, then, neither is life.
PINE MOUNTAIN SETTLEMENT SCHOOL COLLECTIONS
The records gathered in the Pine Mountain Settlement School Collections follow a process but it is one of individual discovery — as it should be. It is filled with the attempts of contributors to capture their moments at the institution. It is the anguish and joy and pessimism and optimism of past directors, staff, volunteers, friends of the School and interested visiting parties, who have contributed to the many associated documents. So much more remains to be discovered and created in this fluid stream of history. No doubt those discoveries will follow the same enigmatic processes that deposited the history of 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 generally. The Pine Mountain Settlement School Collection is is a collection about and for both near and far communities. It is held tightly by the near Community and yet often just as tightly by the far communities of interest, that helped and are helping to create it.
As seen in the records noted below, archives/collections are often contested spaces. They both evoke and provoke and both require emotional engagement. In this age of contestation, archives should 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 intellectual companions when entering an archive. What comes from the experience may be scholarly, personal, contested, admired, despised, or revered, but it needs, above all, to be honest, and placed within its context — and it needs to be preserved.
QUOTES: TO DISCOVER, TO USE, AND TO LEARN THROUGH ARCHIVES
“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 …” …. a meme for exampleFred Dretske (1981) Knowledge and the Flow of Information (as quoted by James Gleick)
Of growing importance —-
“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, (2011) The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood, 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 (1973) Extraordinary Tales.
“… 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 (1973) Time and Narrative, p. 119
“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. In fact, 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
As seen in the above quotes, archives and archivists are not neutral nor is there uniform agreement on what constitutes an “archive” and an “archivist.” [BUT — We do know that neither of the current keepers of the archive is an “oligarch.”] Further, there is no stability in today’s digital archive, and “archivist” seems to have lost its aura and proprietary ownership of all things, “archive.”
Archives, like closed collections of any kind, often are maligned as serving no function other than providing rent or bragging rights, or exclusivity in institutions across the world. However, archives now challenge us to re-visit the idea of both “archive” and “archive user.” Increasingly, institutions are realizing that archives have the potential for a broader reach and societal impact. They need not be created only for the ubiquitous scholar-user, the scholar within academic institutions — or for the vested historian, or for the practiced genealogist, but they serve a broader purpose.
To know an archive, and more importantly, to be the custodian of an “archive,” it is increasingly important to understand the institutional value and the evidentiary value of its collections to its community of creation. 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, institutional archives, community archives, and collections, have a larger audience than they have ever known through digital distribution — and within that digital evidence is an even greater responsibility and complexity for the custodians.
It is the belief of the creators of this digital archive, the Pine Mountain Settlement School Collections, that in the near future archives and community collections will need to look toward a broader spectrum of use and definition and distribution. 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, the archivist, and we all need to guard our identity through responsible use and curation of our authentic shared information collections. At Pine Mountain Settlement School we want 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 comprehended and respected. This is not always possible. Digital access is only a partial solution — and an imperfect one, but it has opened the dialogue of collections and users. At this moment in time, the time seems to call for collectively re-thinking archives and collections. Pine Mountain Settlement School is doing this.
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, medical vulnerabilities, 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 practices against our current practices to determine if we are doing our best to sustain, organize and retain our communities of interest. We are challenged to serve and reflect our community, while sometimes living outside it, and to exercise responsible sensitivity, environmentalism, and joy while living within its rich echoes. We strive to maintain our mission consistent with ideals that move us ALL, whoever and wherever we are — responsibly forward.
Archives and collections gather the past but they are also roadmaps pointing us to our future. As stewards — administrators, 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 deep partnership with the entities that created and continue to create social memory — the communities of interest both near and far. In a land of contested borders AND contested information, we, the editors have attempted to understand and to move in this new digital initiative with some caution, concern, and certainly, love.
We are reminded of and guided by Uncle William Creech’s REASONS and hopes that we might provide something for those at “home” and those “overseas” — in other words, our vision is both inward and broadly outward with what we hope is historical understanding, intelligence, and empathy.
“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 empathy.”Francis X. Blouin Jr. and William G. Rosenberg, (2011) Processing the Past: Contesting Authority in History and the Archives, p.155.
Why so many quotes? In many ways, an archive is a repository of quotes. We invite the user to find the quotes that resonate with their lives or better yet, we want the user to “be quotable.”
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