“Can’t See the History for All the History”: Historic Preservation in a 3000-Year-Old City

By  Dr. Stacey Graham, Research Professor, Center for Historic Preservation

What does historic preservation look like outside the United States? This is a question I’ve been interested in for a while, and this summer, I got to find out. Six MTSU undergraduates, one graduate student, and I traveled to Rome, Italy, to explore “Cultural Landscapes of the Roman World,” a study abroad course I’ve been developing over the past two years. The goal of the course was to examine cultural landscapes as primary sources for approaching the study of history and culture, with a particular focus on ancient Rome.

By analyzing the built environment and people’s interactions with it over the course of centuries, students learned to see the layers of history, tangible and intangible, that make Rome the city it is today. This approach to the city was complementary to my own agenda of learning about historic preservation there. Discerning the layering effect on the built landscape helped me start to understand how these sites have been preserved and how people make use of the past.

For three weeks, my students and I explored the remnants of ancient, late antique, medieval, Renaissance, Baroque, and modern Rome. The students were struck by how a single building could show so many layers through its walls and floors alone. For example, underneath the 12th-century basilica of San Clemente is a 4th-century church, which itself was built on top of an ancient apartment building where a mithraic temple was built in the 3rd century. A visitor literally descends stairs and goes down narrow hallways to go further back in time. As the students grew fond of saying, “It’s hard to see the history for all the history!”

San Clemente is not the only example of this indirect form of preservation – i.e., saving the structures of earlier buildings by building around or on top of them. The Pantheon, which is probably the best-preserved ancient structure in Rome, survives because a 7th-century pope converted it into a church dedicated to Mary and all Christian martyrs. The 1st-century B.C. tomb of Caecilia Metella was built into a castle in the Middle Ages, largely because its round, tower-like shape made it a great medieval fort.

Left: Alicia, David, Ethan, Andrew, Michael, Duaa’a, Jay, and MTSU mascot Lightning partake of the cultural landscape of the Piazza della Rotonda, with the Pantheon as the focal point; right, The crown of merlons along the top of the tomb of Caecilia Metella, located on the ancient Appian Way, were added in the 14th century by the Caetani family.

Left: Alicia, David, Ethan, Andrew, Michael, Duaa’a, Jay, and MTSU mascot Lightning partake of the cultural landscape of the Piazza della Rotonda, with the Pantheon as the focal point. Right: The crown of merlons along the top of the tomb of Caecilia Metella, located on the ancient Appian Way, were added in the 14th century by the Caetani family.

Adaptive reuse is not a modern concept. It has been a necessity in a city like Rome, where almost three thousand years of continuous human habitation within a compact space has meant that anything you build that is new is almost assuredly built on top of something old. And when older structures crumble while you’re building something across town, why not reuse the perfectly good, already-quarried marble that’s just lying around? (Hence, parts of Vatican City were constructed with rubble from the collapsed southern side of the Colosseum.)

This process of layering and of reuse presents many challenges, however, for modern Roman preservationists. A grad school professor of mine used to say that there is no dirt in Rome. When you dig down, you will inevitably hit something—an item of material culture, perhaps, or a building or road—which may lead to a new archaeological excavation. How does a city manage to keep growing and remain vibrant when it’s constantly bumping into remnants of its past?

Furthermore, how do you decide what to preserve when you’re surrounded by archaeological debris hundreds or thousands of years old? Italy is responsible for more historic sites and monuments than just about any other country in the world—including the largest number of properties inscribed on the World Heritage List—despite being the size of Arizona. The sheer volume of projects makes it a mecca for conservationists, including the international experts at ICCROM, the International Centre for the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property. With respect to the great needs for excavation, conservation, and maintenance, the Italian government, like many national and local governments in the post-recession era, does not have sufficient funds to devote to such projects. The result: difficult times for historic sites in need of maintenance. One solution has been to welcome the support of private individuals and corporations who choose to focus on particular projects, such as the cleaning of the Colosseum and the Trevi Fountain.

Scaffolding surrounds the lower half of the Pyramid of Cestius, a first-century B.C.-era tomb that now stands partially within the Non-Catholic Cemetery in Rome (http://www.cemeteryrome.it/).  When touring the cemetery with Dr. Nicolas Stanley-Price, he explained that the monument’s cleaning was being funded entirely by a wealthy Japanese businessman.

Scaffolding surrounds the lower half of the Pyramid of Cestius, a first-century B.C.-era tomb that now stands partially within the Non-Catholic Cemetery in Rome (http://www.cemeteryrome.it/). When touring the cemetery with Dr. Nicolas Stanley-Price, we learned that the monument’s cleaning was being funded entirely by a wealthy Japanese businessman.

The phenomenon of private sponsorship of the preservation of public monuments makes me think about the global attraction of historic sites in Rome and what the Eternal City means to people who wish to preserve it. How do you choose which layers to preserve and which to dig through? What “history” do you preserve when everyone has his own idea of what “Rome” means? My three-and-a-half-week visit was barely enough time to scratch the surface of some of these quandaries. I plan to return, of course, as millions of pilgrims and tourists have before me. All roads lead to Rome, after all, especially for proponents of international historic preservation.

All roads lead to Rome: A segment of the Appian Way, originally constructed in the 4th century B.C., is remarkably intact, despite constant foot and car traffic.  Photo courtesy of Michael Fletcher, the graduate student teaching assistant for this study abroad course.

All roads lead to Rome: a segment of the Appian Way, originally constructed in the 4th century B.C., is remarkably intact, despite constant foot and car traffic. Photo courtesy of Michael Fletcher, the graduate student teaching assistant for this study abroad course.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Following Every Pig Path

By Dr. Susan W. Knowles, Digital Humanities Fellow, Center for Historic Preservation

When I was a child, we visited my grandparents’ farm in Montgomery County every summer. It was an opportunity for my Minnesota-born father to marvel at what he called “Tennessee Talk.” His insight encouraged me to appreciate the many information-laden, and often poetic, sayings that represent a way of life based on closeness to the land.

On a recent trip between Memphis and Murfreesboro with Kira Duke, my colleague who serves as the educational specialist for the Teaching with Primary Sources–MTSU program, we stopped for lunch in Brownsville. Turning off I-40, we also had to exit the modern by-pass, onto what looked for a moment like a country road, in order to reach central Brownsville. From previous visits, I had an image of the town’s layout in mind, but it was not quite linking up with our GPS, so we used our natural sense of direction, following what looked like the nearest “pig path” (as my Aunt Jane, from Spring Hill, Tennessee, used to say), to find Helen’s Barbeque.

Helen's Barbecue in Brownsville, TN.

Helen’s Barbeque in Brownsville, TN.

Helen’s is all-business: a plain wooden building with a paved parking lot. Inside, there’s barely enough room for two tables and a stand-up refrigerated display case for soft drinks. Helen, who took over the business from its previous owner, is the rare female pit-master in a traditionally male culinary realm. While she credits her husband with rising before dawn to build her fire as he passes by the shop on his way to work, she not only tends the cooking, she takes the orders, supervises two assistants, and waits on the cash register, extending congenial greetings to a steady parade of customers every day at lunchtime. Through an oral history and a short video produced by the Southern Foodways Alliance, as well as a 2012 feature in Southern Living magazine, many barbeque seekers–including two African American women from Alabama just ahead of us in line–have found Helen’s.

Kira Duke and the menu at Helen's.

Kira Duke and the menu at Helen’s.

Just as a point of clarification, Helen Turner is not related to Tina (born Annie Mae Bullock in nearby Nutbush), Brownsville’s most famous former resident, whose rural elementary school has been moved to the West Tennessee Delta Heritage Center off I-40 and will soon be open to the public with special displays about Tina’s career and local history. We decided to save the rags-to-riches tale of Tina Turner for another day.

With our pulled-pork sandwiches, pickles, and potato chips in hand, Kira and I headed to another of Brownsville’s major cultural attractions: The Mindfield, an enormous folk art environment that takes up a whole city block just off the main downtown square. This assemblage of welded metal, painted battleship gray and reaching several stories into the sky, is the masterful creation of Billy Tripp, another creative Brownsville native whose roots go back generations. While Tripp certainly has his own cult following, it’s only a fraction of the support for “slow” and “artisan” food around the world.

The Mindfield, Brownsville, TN (courtesy of BIlly Tripp).

The Mindfield, Brownsville, TN (courtesy of BIlly Tripp).

As we munched, using our paper lunch bags as placemats to catch the delicious drippings, our eyes traced Tripp’s jungle-gym-like creation against the sky, noticing what appeared to be stylized human figures at the top of some pinnacles and spelled-out words between the three-dimensional grid of metal bars. The title signs at the base of the sculpture offer a dedication to Tripp’s parents, and, while he has the viewer’s attention, also extend a plea for tolerance.

The Mindfield, Brownsville, TN (courtesy of Billy Tripp).

The Mindfield, Brownsville, TN (courtesy of Billy Tripp).

Note to travelers: Brownsville is not the only hotbed of authentic culture awaiting those who choose to explore Tennessee’s small towns and side roads. Next time you are driving one of the many interstate highways that cross through our state, start scanning the road signs and billboards for interesting place names, search your GPS for “home cooking” or “restaurants near here,” or just keep your eyes out for unusual built structures—and then exit to the nearest pig path! You never know what might be nearby….

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What Remains: The Quest for Juvenile Justice in Tennessee

By Katie Sutton Randall, Fieldwork Coordinator, Center for Historic Preservation

Prior to the reform movements of the Progressive Era, American youth who committed crimes or were otherwise labeled “wayward” by society were often imprisoned alongside adults. Through my Masters thesis research, I discovered the story of an 11-year-old boy who was imprisoned with adult men and forced to work in the mines near Birmingham, Alabama. His plight and his mother’s plea on his behalf prompted a well-meaning clubwoman to act, and the Alabama Boys’ Industrial School was born a few years later.

The historic water tower (c. 1900), Bush Chapel (1926), and Graves Mechanical Arts Building (1929) at the Alabama Boys' Industrial School.

The historic water tower (c. 1900), the Graves Mechanical Arts Building (1929), and Bush Chapel (1926) at the Alabama Boys’ Industrial School.

In Tennessee, we have a similar story. In 1908, a 10-year-old boy and an 11-year-old boy were sentenced to two to three years each in the state prison. Their crime was larceny, or stealing. For this, they were imprisoned with grown men, a common practice at the time. There were no juvenile courts or institutions for youthful offenders.

Within a few years, however, the state of Tennessee opened the Tennessee Reformatory for Boys in Jordonia, near present-day Bordeaux in Davidson County. Shortly thereafter, the Tennessee Federation of Women’s Clubs spearheaded an effort to establish a similar institution for girls in Tullahoma in Coffee County (a facility that now serves as a training site for the state Department of Correction). Because of Jim Crow laws in the South at this time, both schools were strictly intended for whites only, but in 1918, the state opened the Tennesseee Reformatory for Negro Boys near Pikeville in Bledsoe County.

Having witnessed similar institutions in other states, J. Frankie Pierce, a reformer and founder of Nashville’s Federation of Colored Women’s Clubs, tirelessly lobbied the state for a similar institution for African American girls in 1921. Her efforts were successful, and the Tennessee Vocational School for Colored Girls opened in Nashville, near present-day Tennessee State University, in 1923. Pierce served as the school’s superintendent from its founding until 1939.

These places have complicated pasts and complex landscapes related to racial discrimination, gender stereotypes, reform, education, and punishment. Most of the reformatories saw modernization in the 1950s, and all were affected by integration in the 1960s. Over the course of the next year, I hope to learn more about these places and begin to explore their present landscapes. I plan to blog about my findings here and look forward to hearing from any of you who may have insight into these places or knowledge about them and their inhabitants.

1930s-era images of the Tennessee Reformatory for Negro Boys near Pikeville, TN. Courtesy of the Tennessee State Library and Archives.

1930s-era images of the Tennessee Reformatory for Negro Boys near Pikeville, TN. Courtesy of the Tennessee State Library and Archives.

The history of these facilities has not been studied very extensively, but theirs is an important part of Tennessee’s story. As most of these campuses were closed and repurposed in the more recent past, I think it will be interesting to learn what historic fabric remains and what that fabric has to tell us about the quest for juvenile justice in Tennessee throughout the twentieth century.

See Also:

Katie Sutton Randall, “‘A Reformatory, not a Purgatory!’ The Alabama Boys’ Industrial School, 1899-1975,” M.A. Thesis, MTSU, 2011.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Coincidence or Fate: The Intersection of Research and Family

By Brittany Wickham Walker, CHP Graduate Research Assistant

I’ve recently joined the Center for Historic Preservation (CHP) as the newest graduate research assistant. While my duties this summer revolve primarily around the Teaching with Primary Sources–MTSU program, I have been encouraged to explore other initiatives run by the CHP. I came across Southern Places, the CHP’s digital humanities partnership with MTSU’s Walker Library. Staring at me from the home page was this image:

E.T. Wickham roadside park and Wickham Cemetery: angel. Photo by Dr. Carroll Van West, 2002. Courtesy of Southern Places.

E.T. Wickham roadside park and Wickham cemetery: angel. Photo by Dr. Carroll Van West, 2002. Courtesy of Southern Places.

This cemetery sculpture was made by Enoch Tanner Wickham, a self-taught artist who created dozens of concrete works during the last twenty years of his life, using only the materials around him. Although his formal education ended in the sixth grade, his knowledge of American history and politics inspired his work. His sculptures included politicians, religious figures, wildlife, American presidents, and soldiers.

Along with being an important folk artist in the Montgomery County area, E.T. Wickham was my great-grandfather.

In 2002, Dr. Carroll Van West and the CHP documented Wickham’s sculptures in Palmyra, Tennessee. Dr. Susan Knowles, who is now the digital humanities research fellow at the CHP, was heavily involved in E.T. Wickham: A Dream Unguarded, an exhibition at the Customs House Museum and Cultural Center in Clarksville. Even though I was a teenager when this exhibition was on display, my family visited the museum several times to see the research that had been done on my great-grandfather and his work.

E.T. Wickham standing beside “Tecumseh.” Courtesy of the Wickham Family Archives.

E.T. Wickham standing beside “Tecumseh.” Courtesy of Wickham Family Archives.

I never met E.T. Wickham, but his interest in art and history inspired me from a young age. In a high school art class, I made a sculpture of an angel similar to the one in our family cemetery, using papier-mâché and chicken wire. While sculpture never turned out to be my artistic calling (I’m pretty sure the angel ended up melting in a rainstorm), Wickham’s work inspired me to pursue a degree in art and architecture. As I’ve continued my studies, my artistic interests and practices have drifted toward historic preservation.

Newspaper article, 1965. The Leaf Chronicle.

Newspaper article, 1965. The Leaf Chronicle.

Since leaving Montgomery County after high school, my studies have taken me all over the country, from western Massachusetts, Santa Fe, Chicago, Nashville, and Washington, D.C. As I enter the Ph.D. program in Public History at MTSU, I realize that I’m being drawn back to my Tennessee roots, perhaps to continue the research on E.T. Wickham started by the CHP and to one day restore the sculptures that mean so much to my family.

Research can often take you down roads you’ve never discovered, but it can also bring you back home.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Log Architecture on the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail

By Amy Kostine, Trail of Tears Project Historian, Center for Historic Preservation

Brown’s Ferry Tavern, Hamilton County, Tennessee.

Brown’s Ferry Tavern, Hamilton County, Tennessee.

In my last blog post, 175 Years Later: Documenting the Historic Buildings of the Trail of Tears, I introduced an exciting new project that the Center for Historic Preservation (CHP) is working on in partnership with the National Trails Intermountain Region of the National Park Service to survey buildings associated with the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail. Arguably, some of the most iconic examples of early vernacular architecture located along the Trail are the hewn-log buildings that stand as testaments to the skill of the early craftsmen who built them. Some are former Cherokee homes and mark the beginning of the Trail of Tears, while others were built by European Americans and bore witness to the removal.

The Trail’s historic log structures are the result of a variety of log-building techniques born from a “melting pot” of European influences but rooted in Scandinavian and German traditions. At a time when pioneers had little but natural resources at their disposal, building with logs was an ideal and efficient construction method. Trees that needed to be cleared from the land to make way for agricultural production could be turned into sturdy homes with minimal labor and tools.

Although some of the first log homes in the present-day United States appeared in the Delaware River Valley in the 1630s, the tradition of log building quickly spread into the Southeast with the migration of pioneers into the frontier. According to Patricia Irvin Cooper, author of “Cabins and Deerskins: Log Building and the Charles Town Indian Trade,” deerskin traders in South Carolina introduced the Cherokee and other native peoples to log buildings. Soon, many Cherokee abandoned their traditional wattle-and-daub dwellings and replaced them with log homes. In 1838, some of the Cherokee carried their knowledge of log-building techniques with them on the Trail of Tears and built their new homes in Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma) using hewn logs.

Born in Tennessee, Sequoyah, the creator of the Cherokee syllabary, built this single-pen, hand-hewn log house in 1829 in present-day Sequoyah County, Oklahoma.

Born in Tennessee, Sequoyah, the creator of the Cherokee syllabary, built this single-pen, hand-hewn log house in 1829 in present-day Sequoyah County, Oklahoma.

Today, a number of log buildings survive along the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail. These buildings have endured on the landscape for more than 175 years and represent a variety of different log-house types. The most basic type consists of four log walls notched in the corners and is known as a single-pen (or single-crib when referring to barns and outbuildings). These small houses typically measure 20 by 18 feet, rest on a stone-pier foundation, and have a chimney on one of the gable ends. More complex log dwellings, such as the dogtrot or saddlebag, evolved from the single-pen house with the attachment of additional pens.

One of the most distinctive features of a log house is its corner notch, which locked the logs in place, thus ensuring the structure’s stability. The most commonly seen notch types on log buildings along the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail are square (left), V (center), and half-dovetail (right).

One of the most distinctive features of a log house is its corner notch, which locked the logs in place, thus ensuring the structure’s stability. The most commonly seen notch types on log buildings along the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail are square (left), V (center), and half-dovetail (right).

Time has not always been kind to log houses. Many suffered from neglect, fire, and environmental threats over the years, leading to their destruction and collapse. The log buildings that remain along the Trail of Tears today represent only a fraction of those standing in 1838. These log buildings are not just tangible reminders of the Cherokee removal landscape but are also important examples of the vernacular architecture of the American frontier and visual representations of the turning point in the traditional architectural practices of the Cherokee.

The Wolf House in present-day Norfork, Arkansas, was built in 1829 and is an excellent example of a two-story dogtrot. It was the first permanent courthouse for Izard County in Arkansas Territory. Those Cherokee traveling with Benge’s detachment would have seen this building on their way to Indian Territory.

The Wolf House in present-day Norfork, Arkansas, was built in 1829 and is an excellent example of a two-story dogtrot. It was the first permanent courthouse for Izard County in Arkansas Territory. Those Cherokee traveling with Benge’s detachment would have seen this building on their way to Indian Territory.

To help owners become better stewards of this architectural legacy, the CHP is partnering with the National Trails Intermountain Region of the National Park Service to develop a restoration guide for log buildings on the Trail of Tears. Scheduled to be available in early 2015, the guide will offer advice and solutions regarding the restoration and preservation of historic log structures by addressing common problems faced by homeowners and preservation professionals.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Stay tuned for more blog entries on the Trail of Tears. In the meantime, download any of the Trail of Tears brochures, and visit one of the Trail’s many log buildings.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Construction Zones

By Dr. Rachel Martin, Assistant Director, Center for Historic Preservation

My office at the Center for Historic Preservation (CHP) has become a construction zone. I don’t mean that there are guys in hardhats tearing out sections of the Harrison House. All this chaos is my own doing.

In a recent post on my personal blog, I reflected on how much has changed in the last year. To briefly recap: twelve months ago, I was moving back to Tennessee from Massachusetts. I hadn’t yet been hired as the assistant director at the CHP. I had no idea where I would be or what I would be doing. All I knew was that I needed to be nearer to my family in Tennessee, and I wanted to get back to doing public history.

I’ve been in my job since mid-September, and it’s been a challenge to figure out what my role here will be. Caneta Hankins, the previous assistant director, did a brilliant job. It’s been intimidating to fill her shoes. Before I could create a place for myself, I had to figure out what we did. For those of you I haven’t yet met, I first worked at the CHP as a research fellow back in 2005. The CHP today is drastically different from the place I knew back then. The Tennessee Civil War National Heritage Area has grown, especially during the sesquicentennial of the war. We’ve also added programs like Teaching with Primary Sources–MTSU and the Trail of Tears National Historic Site Survey.

My first six months back at the CHP were spent getting settled.

Cleaning the closetDuring this period, I sent 35 years of files to the archives, spoke at the 2013 Tennessee Civil War Sesquicentennial Signature Event, lectured on the history of slavery for a TPS-MTSU workshop, helped teach the spring graduate seminar in historic preservation, and worked with the students on a new heritage development plan for the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga’s historic Engel Stadium.

Speaking to teachers about the history of slavery.

Speaking to teachers about the history of slavery for a TPS-MTSU teacher workshop in partnership with the Tennessee State Museum.

It’s time to create my own space to further enhance our programming. As I discussed in my first post on Southern Rambles, I’ve decided that my experience in oral history is the most valuable addition I can make to the work we do. This will be the subject of many future entries on this blog. I’m beginning an oral history initiative where we will train community partners and offer digital archival support. The goal is to enable local communities to take control of their own oral history projects. But more on that later.

I’ve also been figuring out who I am as a writer. I’m having to decide if I really mean it when I say that I want to write for a general audience. I’m taking a class in creative nonfiction down at the Sewanee School of Letters this summer. It’s the first time since graduating college in 2002 that I’m in a writing workshop. It’s been exciting and a little brutal.

The workshop has forced me to reevaluate how I approach historical narratives. Many pieces of nonacademic nonfiction are written as first-person accounts. I find myself wanting to run away from that idea. The approach goes against my training as a historian, and I’m not sure how much I want you to know about me. But it’s time to get over that. I need to find a way to write that includes me without being a memoir.

For me, using the first-person will be more honest. I am invested both in the work I do here at the CHP and in my research. I need to acknowledge that these projects aren’t about arcane knowledge. They are of great importance to me. This is especially true of my ongoing work on the story of Clinton High School in East Tennessee, where in 1956 twelve African American teenagers proved that desegregation could succeed in America.

Clinton, TN. School integration conflicts.  Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Clinton, TN. School integration conflicts. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

I’m also realizing that I like reading other people’s personal accounts. I’ve been going back through earlier posts here on Southern Rambles. It’s compelling and powerful when my colleagues invite us along on their travels. I love hearing about the new and unexpected things they learn about the places they thought they knew.

So, I’m in my office building things this summer. I’m trying to build a place for myself here at the CHP. I’m trying to build a new identity for myself as a historian and a writer. I’m also trying to build a giant corkboard, where I can start pinning ideas and outlines. This could start to get messy.

0702141159a

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Agriculture and Commerce”–and Manufacturing?

By Amber Clawson, CHP Graduate Research Assistant

Tennessee’s state motto, “Agriculture and Commerce,” popularizes two of the state’s economic endeavors. Based on the state seal developed early in Tennessee’s history, the motto overlooks an economic imperative critical since the twentieth century– manufacturing. The economic stimulus of manufacturing is readily apparent as we live surrounded by products created in places like Kingsport, Memphis, and Columbia (to name but a few).

Sometimes day-to-day life in the modern world obscures the people of the past who shaped our world. Enter the Center for Historic Preservation (CHP)! Partnerships with grassroots preservationists and local, non-profit organizations enable CHP researchers (staff and students) to uncover forgotten layers of history in Tennessee. As a CHP doctoral resident over the past year, I worked on a grant funded by the Aluminum Company of America (ALCOA) Foundation with the East Tennessee Historical Society (ETHS) to develop an 8-panel traveling exhibition that explores Tennessee’s manufacturing history.

It was exciting to uncover the stories of factory workers…

1a35373v Vultee Plant

Operating a hand drill at Vultee-Nashville, woman is working on a “Vengeance” dive bomber, Tennessee [1943]. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

and to explore the factory buildings that still exist and contribute to the state’s landscape….

Marathon Motor Works

Marathon Motor Works, Nashville, TN. Courtesy of the Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture, University of Tennessee Press.

My primary responsibilities were twofold: research statewide stories of manufacturing and draft exhibition text. The manufacturing history of Tennessee is complex because it’s divided by region and industry. So, how did factories arrive in Tennessee? Often, entrepreneurial residents of the state began businesses on a small scale, which later grew, thanks to successful production methods and increasing consumer demand.

The exhibition team at ETHS decided to tell these stories through the promises of enthusiastic economic supporters. Politicians, businessmen, and factory workers promoted the growth of manufacturing to develop the state’s infrastructure and provide opportunities for employment. Improved modes of transportation enabled speedy delivery of industrial products and popular goods like metals, chemicals, and automobiles.

What, then, is the best way to tell such diverse stories to multiple audiences? Products created by Tennesseans…

Musgrave

Musgrave Pencil Company, 1938. Courtesy of the Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture, University of Tennessee Press.

Visitors to the exhibition will learn how agriculture and commerce affected manufacturing. They will see objects created by Tennesseans; visitors will encounter some objects that they may have never seen before and others that they are very familiar with. Together, the objects, images, and stories of Tennesseans illustrate the lasting influence of manufacturing on the state and region.

“Agriculture, Commerce, and Manufacturing” may be a mouthful, but the economic and social histories of Tennessee demonstrate how manufacturing reinforced agriculture and industry statewide. This year, ALCOA celebrates its centennial. Volunteers from the factory floor will be available at some of the exhibition openings to answer questions and share their stories. ETHS and the CHP are excited to present an exhibition that integrates the accomplishments of the state’s three regions, the past innovations of its citizens, and the manufacturing field’s economic potential for the future.

See Also:

Delfino, Susanna, and Michele Gillespie, eds. Technology, Innovation, and Southern Industrialization from the Antebellum Era to the Computer Age. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2008.

West, Carroll Van, ed. The Tennessee Encyclopedia of History & Culture. Nashville, TN: Tennessee Historical Society, 1998. Also available online at http://tennesseeencyclopedia.net/

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment