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 reference to the materials that have been collected over the course of more than one hundred years and that have been aggregated into discreet collections of material. 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. ” That larger archive is well described in the many distinct and discreet “collections” that largely live within the walls of the Settlement institution’s Library building —- often referred to as “The Archive”.
The Archive rooms at the Library (formerly called “Boy’s House”) contain materials found more 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 hold enormous history, yet, to grasp the full collective archive is to be THERE — on site and among and within the built environment, the people, the flora and fauna of the Settlement School. There is more to know when an Archive is wrapped within its rich entirety — the full institution 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 joined in a partnership in the early 1980s to develop a conservation and preservation strategy that would protect their unique historical collections. These collections were described as the records of a unique, but poorly characterized, and often stereotyped, people that needed to be “saved.” This was not baptism. It was a capture. The anticipated “save” would capture the original documents and images in a new medium, called microfilm — literally “small film.” Microform, the over-arching 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 under debate as to its 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 while offering a less engaging solution to access.
Nevertheless, Microfilm was chosen for the SIA 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. 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 at Berea College, the central site of the large project. The SIA proposal and its partner project was informed by current archival practice and good intentions, but was not met with enthusiasm by some of the institutions, particularly, Pine Mountain Settlement School.
The SIA correspondence regarding the two institution’s formal agreement or “buy-in,” is a record of institutional anxiety… at best. The University of Kentucky assisted the two institutions in the transfer processes as the university had the equipment to manage the technical transfers. The copied material, microfilm, and contact prints, were envisioned to represent the core of the various collections and to enable future access to multiple institutions and audiences while protecting the original materials left on-site at the institutions where stewardship was perceived as uniformly poor. The selected and incomplete “archive” (materials gathered through 1983 only) are represented in the surrogates (copies) now housed in the Berea College Special Collections. These surrogates joined original archival materials donated from the various settlement institutions and donors and for many years represented a “go-to” place for researchers interested in the Central and Southern Appalachians settlement movement. Yet, in the view of Pine Mountain, the researchers were often overly dependent on the microfilm (which few had the patience to methodically move through) and few visited the settlement institutions.
It is important to note that the ARCHIVE at Pine Mountain Settlement School IS NOT 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 the Community that created it. Again, the collection context and its inherent issues were not fully acknowledged by either party. But, then, the Pine Mountain Settlement School is an uneasy captive that does not yield up its secrets and joys and sense of place in surrogates. The Pine Mountain Settlement School archival materials at Berea have been pulled from their site and the process made uncomfortable from the beginning, 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 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 institutions history — 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, 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 contemplated of collections gathered within their communities of origin. Information is, as our contemporary author James Gleick tells us, “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 and 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, and play equipment; the 25 and more staff that annually hold 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 along with 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.
In the deep and isolated valley sandwiched between two mountains, 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 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 and there are many of these.
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 — 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. 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. This is a collection about and for the complex near communities and for the far communities of interest, that helped 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.
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)
“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.” [We do know that neither of the 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.
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 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 digital initiative with caution and concern, and love.
We are reminded of and guided by Uncle William Creech’s hopes that we might provide something for those at “home” and those “overseas” — in other words, our vision is both inward and outward with what we hope is historical understanding 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, “be quotable.”
[Photo by: Elanor Burkhard Brawner]