National Park Service (NPS) officials were joined by representatives from Senator Bob Corker’s office, Representative John Duncan’s office, Friends of the Smokies, Great Smoky Mountains Association, Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center, and AMEC Environment & Infrastructure Inc. to break ground on the new NPS Collections Preservation Center.
The NPS facility will preserve 418,000 artifacts and 1.3 million archival records documenting the history of Great Smoky Mountains National Park and four other NPS areas in East Tennessee including Andrew Johnson National Historic Site, Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area, Cumberland Gap National Historical Park, and Obed Wild and Scenic River. AMEC Environment & Infrastructure Inc. from Knoxville was awarded the contract to build the new 14,000 square-foot facility on a 1.6 acre parcel of land adjacent to the Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center (GSMHC) in Townsend, TN which was donated to the park from GSMHC.
“This is not just a success story about preserving our cultural heritage, whose stories are told at these five national parks, it is also a testament about partnership and what we can accomplish by bringing together public and private interests towards a great purpose,” said Acting Superintendent Clay Jordan.
Funding for the $ 4.125 million facility was made possible through public-private partnerships bringing together both federal funds and public donations. The Friends of the Smokies and Great Smoky Mountains Association donated $1.9 million for the construction of the building.
“The Friends of the Smokies is privileged to partner with the Great Smoky Mountain Association to assist the NPS in the creation of such a lasting and meaningful resource for our area,” said President Jim Hart.
The new facility centralizes irreplaceable materials in a conveniently located, secure, climate-controlled space in which they will be preserved, as well as office and lab space where they can be studied by NPS staff and visiting researchers. In addition to providing construction funds, our partner Great Smoky Mountains Association is also providing support for a librarian to help catalog and care for the items as well as assist park descendants, researchers, and visitors access materials for study.
“Great Smoky Mountains Association is honored to be a part of this landmark project that pays tribute to the people who gave up their homes and communities for the creation of this national park. Of all the park projects GSMA has supported over the last 61 years, this is one of the very most important,” said Executive Director Terry Maddox.
The historic artifacts include pre-historic projectile points, logging-era equipment, vintage weapons, clothing, farm implements, tools and other possessions that would have been found on the farmsteads of the Southern Appalachians in pre-park days such as everyday items including hair combs, butter churns, beds, looms, and spinning wheels, all handmade and all one-of-a-kind. The collection also includes documentary history through oral histories of Southern Appalachian speech, folklore, official documents, photographs and stories. Having these artifacts more accessible will also allow more opportunities for the NPS to share items with approved public museums for temporary display including the adjacent Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center.
Park officials are honored by the dedication and perseverance of Senator Lamar Alexander, Senator Bob Corker, Representative John Duncan, and Department of Interior leaders who provided continued support leading to the construction of this facility which likewise honors the families whose legacy will be well preserved.
For more information about park history, please visit the Park’s website at http://www.nps.gov/grsm/historyculture/index.htm.