Preliminary Survey of Local Archives

Luckily for my colleague and I, the Asheville area appears to be a historian’s mecca.  While UNCA was not around during the Great War years, there were still many other notable buildings- shops, churches, private homes- both in Asheville and the surrounding areas.  What’s more, people were not only documenting the birth and use of these places, but also the everyday normal activities that these folks were undertaking.  Even better, there are many archives in and around Asheville that have kept a record of all of it.

Out of my list of archives thus far, I’m most excited about my college’s special collections.  Part of that reason is the University Archivist and Head of Special Collections, Gene Hyde, seems to really know his stuff.  Just from the short visit where I went and introduced myself, he was able to point me in several good directions as to where to look for the type of information I’m interested in researching regarding this time.

I think what caught my eye the most in UNCA’s special collections, were some of the memoirs and journals that were available from the time.  There was one in particular, a small, delicately-bound blue book, couldn’t have been more than 75 pages or so, and I only caught a few words and phrases in it, but I was suddenly transported back to my Grandparent’s front porch on a late summer afternoon, inundating them with questions about “the good ol’ days” and listening as they spun timeless stories that fascinated me.

Asheville, or more particularly, the suburb of Oteen, houses North Carolina’s western-most regional historical archives, and my colleague and I have a trip planned there next week.  That same day we will also be traversing the Pack Library in downtown Asheville, another place I’ve been told (by more than one person) that is a treasure-trove of artifacts from days gone by in Buncombe County.

I have four other colleges in the area whose special collections I’m interested in perusing- Montreat, Warren Wilson, Mars Hill, and Appalachian.  Along the same vein, the Biltmore House has their own special collections, and while it’s usually off-limits to most of the general population, we have decided it would be worth a shot to send Biltmore’s Archivist an email to let them know what we are undertaking and to see if it would be possible to open up their vault to us.

I feel like my colleague and I are off to a great start, and I look forward to delving into some of this material beginning next week.

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