The Archives of Appalachia, located on the fourth floor of the Sherrod Library, houses ETSU’s collection of memorabilia about the history of Southern Appalachia – and ETSU – consisting of over 700 manuscripts and 2.5 million photographs.
“There are actually two collections,” said Ned Irwin, archivist. “There is one collection for the history of Southern Appalachia and there is one for the history of the university.”
The archives were organized in 1978 by then President of ETSU Arthur DeRosier. “He wanted this to become a regional university and wanted to broaden the focus as part of that,” Irwin said. “He wanted an institute that would preserve and study the history of the area.”
The holdings in the Archives of Appalachia are divided into four sections.
There are the manuscripts and institutional records, the Appalachian Photographic Archive, the Appalachian Publications and vertical file and audio/visual materials.
The manuscripts and institutional records are a collection of personal papers and company or organizational records.
“This would be scrapbooks, diaries, letters or records from when a business closed down,” Irwin said.
The Appalachian Photogra-phic Archive contains pictures that focus on subjects from around the region.
The Appalachian Publicat-ions and vertical file are a collection of articles, pamphlets and reports that are published on the area.
A large collection of 18,000 LPs were given to the archives. The music on these albums is of country, bluegrass and other music that is prevalent to this area.
The Archives of Appalachia contain many interesting and unique items that can only be found there.
“We have letters from a friend of the Wright brothers, who lived near Greeneville,” Irwin said. “Somebody found them in a barn.”
The archives are also home to the court records from Washington County, Tenn.
These are the oldest records in the archives and from Tennessee, because the records predate the state. “Washington County was the first county in Tennessee,” Irwin said. “They were keeping records even before then. These are the oldest records we have.”
There are many topics that are covered in the documents kept in the archives.
Local history, education, religious practices, folklore, music, medicine and coal mining are just a few.
“The railroad records are probably the most heavily used,” Irwin said. “If they are not the most heavily then they are close. There are a lot of railroad buffs out there.”
Thanks to the archives’ web site, there has been an increase in requests for documents. “People can do their preliminary research online and e-mail us and ask us for it,” Irwin said.
“We have had requests from just about every state and from other countries. People in Japan, France, England, Australia and Canada have requested stuff from us. We get requests from just about any country that speaks English.”
Visitors to the Archives of Appalachia are often seeking information for their research projects, either for a class or for one they are working on independently.
“Classes on campus use these records frequently and a class from Milligan College came over to use them,” Irwin said. “People from out in the community come by a lot also. People use the archives to research family history or just topics that are interesting to them”
Irwin was quick to note that the materials located in the archives do not leave.
“They cannot be checked out like other materials in the library,” he said. “This may be the only copy that there is and we can’t risk losing it.”
For more information about the Appalachian Archives, call 439-4338 or visit