Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Historical artifacts being moved to storage location

Cooperative local efforts have identified a storage location for the thousands of historical artifacts held in the former county courthouse building in Shelby, N. C.

The collection will be moved in early May to the large gymnasium of the former Hunter School building on Pinkney Street in Shelby, adjacent to and sharing back parking with the Cleveland County Schools’ instructional center. The gym area is no longer used for school purposes.

The artifacts were donated for a former historical museum at the old courthouse and have been held there by Cleveland County government, on behalf of all citizens, since that museum closed. For several months now, volunteers of Destination Cleveland County, Inc. (DCC) have been working to inventory and properly document the artifacts, with the guidance of professional museum collection managers. They estimate that about half the overall job is done so far and expect to complete the work more quickly going forward, by having the artifacts in a building purposely set up for their cataloging, inventory, and storage, said Sherry Grenier, co-chair of the DCC History Committee.

Local volunteers Libby Sarazen and Millie Lattimore have been leading the documentation of paper archives ranging from early governmental documents to letters from famous forebears to hundreds of old photographs. The ambitious goal is to inventory and document each and store it by proper accession number for ready access in both original form and computer scan. Right now, their workroom is a cramped former office in the old courthouse, ringed with boxes and files.

“It will be wonderful to have adequate work space and facilities to process a document completely all at one time and know it will not have to be touched again for proper archiving,” Ms. Sarazen said.

Local governmental and school leaders cooperated to arrange use of the space, and DCC collection managers provided information about optimum storage and work needs, said Eddie Bailes of the county manager’s office. Preparation of the site for its new function is being completed by county maintenance director Pete McFarland and crew.

The relocation will also facilitate planning for the interior renovation of the former courthouse building, which DCC has leased from the county for development of the prospective Earl Scruggs Center – Songs & Stories of the Carolina Foothills. Plans for the Center anticipate rotating exhibits drawing from the local collection of artifacts.

Roger Holland of Holland & Hamrick Architects, PA, engaged to provide architectural services for the renovation, said planning work could proceed more efficiently after the relocation. “We’ll be better able to move around and thoroughly examine the structure – for example, determining which walls are load-bearing,” he said. Work so far has been careful and cautious so as not to disturb the unprotected collection or create dust or debris that would compromise it.

Relocation of the collection also addresses other needs, DCC board chairman Brownie Plaster said. Fundamental are adequate security and environmental conditions for preserving the collection – for example, lighting, heating, and cooling, she said. Another is adequate space and furnishings such as shelving for organizing and arranging the artifacts, as well as proper work tables and facilities such as bathrooms for those working on the collection.

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