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Press release from Western Carolina University, shared Aug. 29:

The parking lot at Clingmans Dome, the highest point in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, was bustling on the day this photograph was taken in the 1930s. Photo courtesy of Hunter Library Special Collections and Hunter Library Digital Collections.

CULLOWHEE – Western Carolina University’s Hunter Library will produce a new digital collection of 2,000 items focused on the history of Great Smoky Mountains National Park with support from a $93,000 grant from the North Carolina State Library.

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This digital collection and interpretive website will include documents and photographs that relate to the initial idea and construction of a national park in the eastern United States, said Anna Fariello, associate professor of digital initiatives with Hunter Library. The materials will focus on a group of North Carolinians who promoted the idea of a park as early as 1899, the efforts of private individuals such as Horace Kephart, whose papers contain many never-before-seen materials that promote a park, and people involved in federal programs, such as the Civilian Conservation Corps, who actually built the park.

Highlights will include journals Horace Kephart assembled in preparation for his book, “Camping and Woodcraft,” images of the park’s construction and photographs of life in the Civilian Conservation Corps and Appalachian National Park Association records.

Grant funding will support staff of the library’s digital production team and will enable the purchase of a new scanner that has the capacity to digitize items up to 2 feet by 3 feet and items currently too fragile to scan.

Fariello applied for the grant for the project after learning that a comprehensive history of the park had not been published online and that the park had historical items that are not exhibited.

“The park certainly has an amazing and well-cared-for archive, but it’s locked away,” said Fariello. “We will be digitally preserving and increasing access to material that is important, not only to the development of the park, but also to the region.”

Fariello said interest in the park has grown with the recent celebration of its 75th anniversary and the success of Ken Burns’ “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea” documentary film series.

Fariello said the library collaborated with the park on a recent digitization project, “Picturing Appalachia,” and gained a better understanding of the park and its history.

The project is made possible through formal partnerships Hunter Library has entered with Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the state Office of Archives and History, which each house items that will be included in the collection.

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For more information, contact Fariello at 828-227-2499 or fariello@wcu.edu.

This 1920s photograph depicts men at LeConte Lodge. The lodge still serves visitors today on the third-highest peak in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Photo courtesy of the park and Hunter Library Digital Collections.

Angie Newsome

Angie Newsome is the executive director and editor of Carolina Public Press. Contact her at (828) 774-5290 or e-mail her at anewsome@carolinapublicpress.org.

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