by Julie Dodd
Work is underway on the new NPS Collections Preservation Center, a facility to preserve more than 400,000 artifacts and 1.3 million archival records documenting the history of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and four other NPS areas in East Tennessee. The 14,000 square-foot facility is being built in Townsend, TN on land adjacent to the Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center and is scheduled to open January 2016.
Friends of the Smokies and Great Smoky Mountains Association combined to donate $1.9 million for the construction of the building. The total cost of the facility will be $4.1 million, which is being funded through public-private partnerships, with both federal funds and public donations. The Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center donated the 1.6-acre parcel of land to the Park.
Groundbreaking for Center
FOTS President Jim Hart was part of the groundbreaking crew for the ceremony last November. Hart joined GSMNP Acting Superintendent Clayton Jordan, Great Smoky Mountains Association Executive Director Terry Maddox, and other officials.
“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,” Hart said.
The other four NPS areas that are included are Andrew Johnson National Historic Site, Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area, Cumberland Gap National Historic Park, and Obed Wild and Scenic River.
Center to house historic artifacts and documentary materials
The historic artifacts that will be housed in the Collections Preservation Center include items that would have been part of the lives of those who lived in the areas in the pre-park days, including farming implements, logging-era equipment, vintage weapons, butter churns and spinning wheels.
The collections also will include archaeological artifacts collected in the park that represent time periods up to 10,000 years ago, including projectile points, pottery sherds and trade beads. The collections also include documentary history — photographs, official documents, stories and oral histories.
The facility will provide a climate-controlled space for the items to be preserved and also will include office and lab space where the collection can be studied by NPS staff and visiting researchers.
Having the artifacts in a more accessible facility will enable the NPS to provide more opportunities for items to be shared for temporary display with approved public museums, including the adjacent Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center.
Work on the facility began in November and has included installing power lines, clearing and grading the area for the building, and installing erosion control, according to Imelda Wegwerth, GSMNP landscape architect. Construction has been slowed down somewhat by the winter weather, but the contractor has worked some Saturdays and holidays to make up the time.
At the groundbreaking ceremony, Park officials recognized the efforts of Senate Lamar Alexander, Senator Bob Corker, Representative John Duncan, and Department of the Interior leaders who had supported the effort to building the facility. Department of the Interior Sally Jewell visited the Park in March 2014 to meet with officials and to announce the construction schedule for the Collections Preservation Center.
To support projects like this and more in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, make a donation to Friends of the Smokies today.