Pine Mountain Settlement School
Series 00: ARCHIVES
About the Pine Mountain Settlement School Collections
TAGS: About the Pine Mountain Settlement School collections, local history, Pine Mountain Valley, National Heritage site, indexing, finding aids, cataloging, assessment reports, preservation, archive resources, 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
ARCHIVE – ABOUT THE PINE MOUNTAIN
SETTLEMENT SCHOOL COLLECTIONS
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 landmarks on the National Historic Register and it joins the many important collected sites that celebrate the nation’s history. Over the course of more than one hundred years (founded in 1913) 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” at Pine Mountain Settlement. As the current keepers continually point out, the Pine Mountain Settlement School is in its entirety the buildings, grounds, photographs and documents, realia, artifacts, and recorded material about the School, etc. But, the archive is more, It is the community of the School and its surrounding community. It is a collection of the whole of the institution “the archive ” and the community it serves. This larger archive/collections 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” as this is the focus — the many boxes of the history of the institution.
The archive rooms at the Library (formerly called “Boy’s House”) contain materials found frequently in familiar institutional “archives”. 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, surrounded by 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 the collections, the archive, becomes an enveloping idea.
SETTLEMENT INSTITUTIONS OF APPALACHIA (SIA)
The ARCHIVE of Pine Mountain Settlement School joins the historical collections of a handful of surviving rural settlement institutions of Appalachia. Under the title of Settlement Institutions of Appalachia (SIA), the institutions established a partnership. Funded by the NEA in the early 1980s, the SIA project attempted to develop a conservation and preservation strategy that would protect their unique historical collections. SIA was conceived to call attention to a little recognized rural iteration of the larger Settlement Movement. This cooperative social endeavor the rural Settlement School ethos focused on some aspect of the ideas of earlier urban social service work. The SIA institution movement, identified Appalachian rural “settlement” institutions and their collections were identified as a collective record of lived experience sharing roots in earlier urban social services work. As “settlement ” institutions these Eastern Kentucky institutions were unique but were identified from the ideas of the earlier urban social service programs.
The collections held by these early rural settlement institutions were believed to be at risk of being lost. Collectively, the institutions held in common records of an often described, but poorly characterized settlement ethos. They also shared a poorly characterized community of often stereotyped people and geography. What these institutions shared in common were roots deep in the larger, more well-known, national and international social experiment called the “Settlement Movement“.
The Settlement Institutions of Appalachia (SIA) were unique in their rural identity. They did not share the common mission or the objective of addressing the immigrant populations found largely in large urban settings. Yet, their urban model, their philanthropy as reflected in their histories, and their programming adapted easily to the rural areas of Appalachia. These new “Settlement” institutions borrowed heavily from the Chicago work of Jane Addams at Hull House and other earlier urban settlement houses. All had a stake in providing social, educational, and many times, religious resources to disadvantaged populations, Poverty was their common service denominator. The ravages of poverty and poor educational opportunity were still evident in the urban centers at the end of the nineteenth century, but the rural settlement centers were just being formed at the beginning of the twentieth century. In the 1980s the history of these early social service centers was at risk of loss. In many of the Appalachian communities in the early 1980s the SIA initiative sought to bring the social need of the people to the attention of the country and the world.
Using elements derived from the broader national and international Settlement Movements, this archival initiative sought to secure the rural settlement’s place in the larger social movement. While the methods and objectives of these institutions often varied dramatically, their archives would capture this diversity as well as the similarities and differences in the communities they served. The diverse archival records, social, religious, and political, capture local translation of the larger social movement in each institution and how the Settlement Movement persisted — or didn’t through the history of each institution. The 1983 archival project an its difficult medium, essentially “froze” the institutional history for future scholars. The photographs, the transcribed conversations, film clips, craft, art, and the evolution of the built environment was saved to microfilm for each of the SIA sites.
The Settlement Institutions of Appalachia archive anticipated that their “save” would save original documents and images in the new medium for all time. Microfilm does this. It was a conservation medium popular at the time (the 1980s) for its supposed longevity if stored under proper conditions. The medium continues to be appreciated for its staying power, but its use has dropped dramatically as using microform proved tedious for all but the devoted scholar. The hum of microfim slowly went silent as digital media began to replace it. Unfortunately, the aggregated microfilm collection lost all but the most dedicated researchers at the the one central location. Students had no appetite or patience for microfilm. The media lacked the immediate reward of instantaneous retrieval found in the more fluid digital record.
In the 1980s microform had a good ability to live up to its “preservation” lifespan. As time progressed it was lauded. It allowed the duplication of collections and the ability to provide a longer-term life for many poorly stored institutional collections. But, obviously, it is less than an engaging resource to access and limited the use of the information. In fact, it assured that collections would become increasingly inaccessible and would continue to limit the ability to do comparative research with ease. As years passed, only researchers with both time and resources would travel to sit for hours with a microform reader.
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. It should be pointed out that that the Society of American Archivists left gifts in many collections with their microfilm insistence. The documents and “contact prints” that duplicated the original material allowed for “off-site” storage and brought many institutional holdings together in one location such as the Berea College, Kentucky, repository for the SIA materials. 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, as well as copies given to the institutions that shared the photographs.
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 pushed strongly against their inclusion, initially declining to partner in the SIA project.
The SIA correspondence regarding the Pine Mountain Settlement School institution’s eventual formal agreement or “buy-in,” is a record of institutional anxiety on many sides. The University of Kentucky (UK) assisted in the collections transfer process. UK had the equipment to manage the technical microform and film transfers. The copied material, microfilm, and contact prints of the photographs generated considerable debate. The photographs represented a point of concern as copyright grew as a concern at the core of the various visual collections. There was no formal accounting of how the images from the various institutions were used, though standard attribution to the original institutions was closely followed.
Another loss for the original institutions and the researchers was the “go-to-place” experience. However, there were significant benefits to researchers who wished to study or compare and contrast multiple rural settlement schools. Berea wisely collected and joined additional original archival materials donated from various additional donors and resources. For many years this collected body of SIA materials represented a central and a “go-to” place for researchers interested in the Central and Southern Appalachians settlement movement. The added collections and SIA archives were and are of value to researchers. The difficult dilemma was the access to the material for those communities responsible for the creation of the collections. The small institutions that had created the records of their history did not have direct management of their “story.”
In the deep discussion that preceded the agreement of Pine Mountain Settlement School to participate in the SIA project, it was a highly sensitive topic in their community. Researchers, often overly dependent on the microfilm and the accompanying archival materials, missed the essence of “place” 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.
PMSS Collections: Issues
The ARCHIVE at Pine Mountain Settlement School IS NOT just the surrogate special collection captured within the microform celluloid and the contact prints. That collection is only a small fraction of the Pine Mountain Settlement School ARCHIVE.
Efforts to address collections gathered from 1983 forward is an important need still facing the School. The need to re-house and organize those later records continues and is a critical need. 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 the institutional records continue to grow.
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 surrogates celluloid, in multi-generation copy photographs, in tightly regulated boxes, and in closed shelves. It often struggles with identity in those conditions. Yet, collections can also die from neglect; from being placed in a mausoleum. Institutional archives can suffer from a kind of cancer from within when they fail 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 poorly processed and integrated ARCHIVE at the Settlement School, present issues in any articulation of the Pine Mountain Settlement School community.
With rise of Artificial Intelligence, another iteration of collection management is on the horizon. How will it capture and share the forests and the creatures, the arts and the crafts, the life and livelihood of the community, governance and administration, and the past and emergent arrangement of history? …. It remains to be known.
PMSS 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, and 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 were 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 PMSS 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, they 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 accessibility.
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 by 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 Trillium 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 collections gathered by Pine Mountain Settlement School follow an obvious selective process that aggregates as arbitrary. The collections reflect the strong individual discovery — as it should be. The collections of the School display the stamps of eras, personalities, interests, politics, religious focus, etc. The collections display attempts of the contributors to capture their moments, their focus, their reflections as they associate with the institution. The whole is a map of the anguish and joy and pessimism and optimism of past directors, staff, volunteers, friends of the School, and interested visiting parties All those who have streamed through the institution have contributed to the many associated documents.
Much more remains to be discovered regarding the creation of the collections and how they were created within the fluid stream of history. No doubt these discoveries will follow the same enigmatic and individual processes that deposited the history of the first one-hundred-plus years. The gathering, re-gathering, and 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 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.
Is the whole a reflection of the reality of the institution? How does one even begin to answer that question? To lock the history into a model or into a process, seems in many ways to imprison the joy of discovery.
As seen in the records noted below, archives/collections are often contested spaces. They can 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, placed within its context, used — and it needs to be preserved.
TO DISCOVER, TO USE, AND TO LEARN Through the 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. But, whose purpose? What purpose?
TO KNOW AN ARCHIVE
To know an archive, and more importantly, to be the custodian of an “archive,” is an increasingly complex series of processes. To fully understand the institutional value and the evidentiary value of an archive collection to its community of creation is often not understood until one is immersed in the collections. Archive bridge divides. They talk about and to their communities of interest. The archival material may often have a long tail of attached information that may not be seen at first but soon begs to be admired. These long tails (of information) are also often long tales; some already told and some waiting to be told.
It is also important that today’s archives bridge divides, that they 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 the current digital distribution — and within that production of digital evidence is an even greater responsibility and complexity for the custodians.
It is the belief of the creators and custodians 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. The digital explosions of community archiving, of reaching marginalized communities, might be a noble desire, but without a doubt, these same collections can also be used for nefarious purposes or can distort the perceptions of both community and archive.
As a nation, a joined world, we are all of us the “Scholar,” the information gatherer, the interpreter, and 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 for unique collections and users. At this moment in time, the time seems to call for collectively re-thinking archives and collections. Pine Mountain Settlement School Collections is attempting to do this.
On a basic human 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 our 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. Yet, 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 —- and community —- 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 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 a pursuit of knowledge, 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” as they reflect on their discoveries in the archive and the many collections shared in this digital offering.
DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH POSTS (Helen Wykle)