State official presents grant to help preserve local records
Historic documents in the archives at the Elizabethton/Carter County Public Library are more protected thanks to storage systems purchased through a state grant.
Secretary of State Tre Hargett visited the library Thursday morning to present a $2,400 State and National Archival Partnership grant that was used to help pay for map storage cabinets for historic plant schematics from the Bemberg factory and archival-grade storage boxes for scrapbooks from the Business and Professional Women’s Club.
“I appreciate the Elizabethton/Carter County Public Library’s commitment to this program,” Hargett said. “These funds will assist in its important work of preserving these records as well as making them available to the broadest possible audience.”
The SNAP grant focused on providing archival preservation materials to the library.
“History means so much,” Hargett said. “It is a lesson of where we have been and it can help make us better in the future. Public records provide the fabric of where the community began.”
Of the $2,400, $1,400 was spent on the storage cabinet and $1,000 was used for storage boxes for the scrapbooks.
“The BP&W scrapbooks tell their story back through the years, all the way to the 1930s,” said city archivist Joe Penza. “It was the club’s contribution that led to the start of the library. Before that, there was not a lending library in the city.
In the Bemberg records, not only are the blueprints of the plant included, but also different schematics and details about how the workers would have interacted and worked in the plant on a daily basis.
“That is what historians want now,” Penza said. “They want to see how people lived years ago, not just the facts of what was there.”
Penza said the scrapbooks had some challenges when storing because of the different materials used when making them, along with the effects of glue on those materials over time.
That’s where the boxes come in. The boxes provide a stable storage area, and help support the books during storage because the weight of the stack is on the box and not on the book.
The boxes also help protect the books when they are being used for research.
“When people see the scrapbooks are stored in boxes, it helps them remember these books are important and they need to be handled carefully,” Penza said.
Hargett commended the library and Penza for the work that had been done to improve and expand the archives. Library Director Mel Goff added that Penza was able to do all the work he had as a part-time employee of the city.
“The archives do such an important work,” Hargett said. “A lot of people don’t know about the archives until they have to use them.”
Penza noted the archives were used daily, largely by people researching their family histories, and had been visited by people from 22 states.
“As they research their family histories, a lot of people find their ancestors were from this area,” he said. “Carter County was a big migration point.”
The Secretary of State’s office has participated in the SNAP program since 1999. Each year, the office provides about $45,500 in available funding to selected archives within Tennessee based on their submitted proposals. The proposals are screened by staff at the Tennessee State Library and Archives, which is a division of the Secretary of State’s office.