Albert Gore Research Center’s 25th Anniversary

Written by Sarah Calise, Archivist

As we wrap up the 2018-2019 academic year, the Albert Gore Research Center’s 25th anniversary celebrations will also come to a close. Starting today through the beginning of May, we will post 25 highlights from our collections across our social media platforms, specifically Facebook and Twitter. Look for the hashtag #GoreCenter25. Additionally, Director Dr. Louis Kyriakoudes and Gore Center staff invite the public to our Open House this Friday, April 12 from 9AM-4PM. We will display highlights from our collection in our research room, we will conduct small group tours of our archival storage, we will provide information on how to donate to our archive, and there will be some refreshments in our conference room from 1:00-3:00PM, so come join us!

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Senator Albert Gore, Sr. speaks passionately before an audience.

How did the Albert Gore Research Center get its start? The answer is in our name! Middle Tennessee State University acquired the congressional papers of Albert Gore, Sr. (MTSU Class of 1932) following his retirement from politics in 1970. Two professors from the Department of Political Science, Dr. Norman L. Parks and Dr. David Grubbs, were instrumental in persuading Gore to donate his papers to his alma mater. The papers first found a home with Dr. Jim Neal of the History Department, who started the archiving process. In 1992, the papers moved to the Learning Resources Center (LRC), where the Albert Gore Research Center began opening its doors to the public in February 1993 under the leadership of Dr. Neal as the first director. During this time, the Gore Center began expanding its collections to include university and regional history. Space and storage issues pushed the Gore Center out of the Learning Resources Center and into the newly renovated Andrew L. Todd Hall in the spring of 2005. Dr. Lisa Pruitt, the director after Dr. Neal retired in 1999, oversaw the move to the new space.

Since moving to Todd Hall, the Gore Center’s collections and outreach initiatives have grown richer and more expansive. Our oral history collections greatly increased over the years, and we currently preserve thousands of audio files that cover stories of Tennesseans from all walks of life. Betty Rowland, former Gore Center secretary, was a crucial figure in collecting oral histories for the Middle Tennessee Oral History Project. She conducted over 200 interviews between the years 2000 and 2004. In 2003, Don and Sheryl Jones donated some of the oldest-known photographs of Murfreesboro. These photographs are dated between 1865 and 1870, and show vestiges of the Union encampment on the town’s Public Square.


Union encampment on Murfreesboro square, ca. 1860s. Don and Sheryl Jones Photograph Collection.

The third Gore Center director, Dr. Jim Williams, called 2010 a “transformative year” for our archive for a number of a reasons. Additional compact shelving units were added to the storage area, which came in handy when U.S. Representative Bart Gordon donated his congressional papers to the Gore Center following his retirement from politics. In total, we received over 600 cartons of papers and an electronic database from Gordon. That same year, we acquired another large donation to our collections, this one specifically for the Margaret Lindsley Warden Library for Equine Studies. Joan Hunt donated over 900 books and 5,500 magazines. Today, the Library for Equine Studies is housed in the Special Collections at James E. Walker Library. Lastly, in 2010, the Gore Center participated in the planning for MTSU’s Centennial Celebration that occurred the following year.

Perhaps the most important event that happened around this time was the hiring of Donna Baker, MTSU’s first University Archivist. She has been an instrumental figure in collecting and preserving MTSU’s history, and her knowledge and leadership has been vital to the Gore Center’s daily operations and public history training. Donna trained me as a graduate student from 2014 to 2016, and I am eternally grateful for her mentorship in these early years of my professional career.


An undergraduate history class discusses what they have found in some of the Gore Center’s archival documents.

Since 2014, the Gore Center has continued its dedication to providing the public and MTSU students with access to our many political, regional, university, and oral history collections. We have opened up our doors to classes across MTSU’s campus for hands-on primary source learning, and we have taken the archives into the classrooms of local Murfreesboro public schools. Our graduate assistants have developed countless physical and online exhibits using our collections. We also started a partnership with Walker Library to create and manage more digital collections, including the Forrest Hall Protest Collection. We have built relationships with communities and institutions across the state of Tennessee, like Humanities Tennessee and MTSU’s Teaching with Primary Sources. We continue to sponsor public programs such as Congress to Campus, and we have developed successful programs of our own, like the Movement 68 Symposium held in October 2018.


Participants in the Movement 68 Symposium: Honoring 50 Years of Black Student Activism, left to right: Sarah Calise (moderator), André Canty, Arionna White, Sylvester Brooks, Dr. Michael McDonald, Dr. Phyllis Hickerson-Washington, Dr. Vincent Windrow, Lae’l Hughes-Watkins (keynote speaker), and Barbara Scales (moderator).

We can’t know for sure what kind of exciting adventures await the Albert Gore Research Center and the archives world in the future, but we do know that our archivists and archivists-in-training will be here when you need us–for your next research paper, class assignment, exhibit, documentary, oral history, public program, community project, or even if you are just looking for some cool historical documents and artifacts. We have been honored to serve the Middle Tennessee community for the past 25 years, and we cannot wait to serve the public for 25 more years and beyond!

Visit our website or contact us to start your next project with the Gore Center.

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Archive Spotlight: Charity Circle of Murfreesboro

Written by Marley Abbott, Graduate Assistant

Marley previously created a resource guide on “Women’s Groups, Clubs, and Organizations in Murfreesboro,” which included Charity Circle of Murfreesboro. It is a great document to explore all year long, but especially during Women’s History Month. 

For Women’s History Month, we wanted to put a spotlight on some of our collections related to the important work of women. This week’s spotlight is on the Charity Circle of Murfreesboro. Founded on October 1, 1910 as the “Girl’s Charity Circle” with over 20 original members. Under its first President, Ellen Douglas, dues were agreed upon to be 15 cents per month. From the time of their founding, Charity Circle has worked to serve their community and various progressive efforts as much as possible.

One of their first major projects was the construction of a Mission Church on Thanksgiving Day in 1912, made possible by donated time, money, and materials. Members of the Charity Circle worked to provide Mission Church residents with food, clothing, and various educational lessons to help better their living situation.


Two women and four young children playing on a slide at Charity Circle’s integrated daycare center in 1967. Source: Charity Circle of Murfreesboro Records

In 1967, they opened the Circle Day Care Center at 216 N. Spring St. The Center was incredibly beneficial for working-class parents, as fees and scheduling were tailored to work schedules and financial abilities, and children were provided with food, educational activities, and supervised recreational time with their peers.

Throughout the year, Charity Circle holds numerous fundraising events and parties, including a holiday luncheons, Christmas caroling parties, a “Cupcakes and Cocktails” summer event, and a tailgate party. The Charity Circle’s annual gala, the Ugly Duckling Ball, is their biggest event each year, providing a fun and formal night of socialization and fundraising. All proceeds and donations collected from the event are given back to the community through various charitable efforts that benefit many local organizations.


Six women working on a large papier-mâché duck for an Ugly Duckling Ball, circa 1960. Source: Charity Circle of Murfreesboro Records

The Charity Circle of Murfreesboro is active today, and recently elected their new President, Anne Davis, in February 2019. They have only grown in numbers and continue to expand their community service projects.

For more information, please visit their website, or research the Charity Circle of Murfreesboro Records housed at the Albert Gore Research Center at MTSU.

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The Ole Miss Incident: Examining the Past in the Present

Written by Marley Abbott, Graduate Assistant

*Disclaimer: some of the words and images cited in this post may contain offensive language and sentiments.

This past Valentine’s Day, I had the privilege of attending MTSU’s Unity Luncheon with keynote speaker James Meredith. As a massive figure of the civil rights movement, it was an honor to hear him speak during Black History Month, and learn about his work as an activist as we also recognized heroes in our own Murfreesboro community. To some, the civil rights movement seems like a figure of the past, but it has only been 55 years since the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Many of the struggles and bigoted beliefs that activists faced during that time are present in 2019. Hearing firsthand the experiences that Meredith went through as the first African-American to integrate the University of Mississippi was an especially emotional moment. Many of those involved on either side of the fight for civil rights are still alive, and their words and actions continue to impact the world that we live in.

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Alissa Kane, myself, and Casey Swank at the Unity Luncheon held in the Student Union Building ballroom on February 14, 2019.

As part of my work as a graduate research assistant at the Albert Gore Research Center, I have been researching the career of Senator Albert Gore, Sr. for an upcoming exhibit. Much of the material that I have sorted through has been constituent mail sent to Senator Gore over the course of his congressional career. One of the largest parts of his collection covers constituent mail concerning civil rights. In the materials that I have gone through, the vast majority of letters oppose civil rights, and their writers seem to find any way to convince themselves that those in support are working against the progress of our country. Some people believe we should not judge those in the past because they were “products of their time,” but shouldn’t freedom, equality, and opportunity be universally understood values as Americans, no matter the time or place?


James Meredith holding a newspaper with the headline that reads, “Meredith off to enroll; Barnett action blocked.” Photo credit: Bettmann/Corbis/AP

The opportunities and human rights that African-Americans fought for during the 1960s are things that many of us in the present may take for granted. An African-American man wanting to attend university, something that should be without controversy in our current day, caused a huge stir during the 1960s. After riots broke out at the Ole Miss campus in opposition to integration on September 29, 1962, President Kennedy mobilized the National Guard and other authorities to maintain order among the students and the local community. When Meredith began attending Ole Miss on October 1, he was met with harassment yet he persevered and would go on to receive his degree in 1963.

As the riots and controversy surrounding Meredith’s university attendance grew, many outside of Mississippi wrote to their respective representatives to share their opinions on the matter. Here at the Gore Center, we have an entire folder dedicated to Senator Gore’s constituent mail concerning the “Ole Miss Incident.” Included below are several images of these letters that we have in our collection. Click here for the transcripts, or click each image to view larger.

Many who wrote such letters likened any action in favor of integration as “communist tyranny” or evidence of an encroaching “dictatorship.” Some people believed that integration was an attack on white southerners and a loss of southern heritage. While many of the letters voiced concerns over the assumed loss of freedom through the power of the individual states, they did not extend that idea of freedom to African-Americans wishing to pursue the same opportunities as whites. In light of the burgeoning tensions of the Cuban Missile Crisis, many also felt that President Kennedy’s use of force to integrate Old Miss was misguided. One constituent, David Jacks, expressed his strong support for the President’s actions and saw it as a worthy cause toward the principles of “liberty and justice and equality” that our nation was founded upon.

While this folder of constituent mail is just one drop in a sea of thousands of other papers, it is a strong reflection of the opportunities that historical research presents. Having the opportunity to work in an archive and interact with these materials firsthand was a unique experience for me. Attending an event featuring James Meredith and then returning to the archives and reading mail discussing a period in his life was an almost strange sensation; what might seem to others as just another event in history had become a very real, very present story for me.

Reading through the hundreds of letters sent to Senator Gore throughout the civil rights movement made an otherwise far away period in time all the more accessible. Being only 24 years old in comparison to James Meredith’s 85 years, I can understand the tendency for many my age to consider a previous period in history as a relic of the past. However, after reflection, the fact of the matter is simple–this was not that long ago. The people who both supported and opposed this struggle for equality are still present. I’ve asked two of my grandparents, both born in 1948, about their experiences growing up in a small Kentucky town, and they both remember segregation quite clearly. Something that was considered normal for part of their generation at one point is now an almost unfathomable concept. This is why historical research is important. This is why we need to take care to understand where we have come from and where we still need to go. If we do not make an effort to understand our past, we cannot progress into the future.

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Burn It Down: Finding Nitrate Film in the Archive

Written by Casey Swank, Graduate Assistant

The archivists and graduate assistants here at the Albert Gore Research Center have a running joke: if things in the archive start going south, just burn it down (truly, we ARE kidding). Little did I realize at the time how real that saying would become when I started working on the Robert Alexander Papers a couple weeks ago.


Robert Alexander

Robert Alexander served in the 17th Photo Intelligence Detachment of the Army Air Forces/Corps during World War II and was stationed in Calcutta, India, from the end of 1943 through 1945. In 2003, he donated a small collection to the Gore Center that included correspondence, diaries, an autobiography, and photographs that related to his military service.
The photographs and negatives were originally digitized in 2003, but they were scanned as low-resolution JPEG files rather than high-resolution TIF files. Sarah Calise, Political and Regional Collections Archivist, asked me to re-scan Alexander’s photos and negatives at a higher quality for both preservation and access. At the time, this seemed like a quick assignment to tide me over until after Thanksgiving break when we could sit down and determine my next big project.

I methodically scanned the images that were stored in individual paper envelopes before moving on to the hardcover binder filled with print and negative strips. The strips were stored in plastic sleeves, with prints at the front of the binder and negatives at the back of the binder. I scanned the strips as a whole, making sure to capture everything, including the sprocket holes and any text written or embossed along the film’s edges. When I was almost finished scanning the strips, my eyes finally focused on two words printed along the edge of the strip: NITRATE FILM.


I took my first archives class last semester, and we discussed the preservation issues presented by nitrate film. Produced commercially between 1889 and 1951, cellulose nitrate film is unstable and incredibly flammable. As the film decomposes, it releases nitrogen dioxide that can be converted to nitric acid when it mixes with moisture in the film. Nitric acid is highly corrosive and can irreparably damage the film if it is not stored in optimal conditions. Additionally, nitrate film catches fire easily, burns quickly, and releases a poisonous smoke as it burns. The best way to preserve nitrate film is to store it somewhere that can be kept at 50 degree Fahrenheit or cooler with a relative humidity between 30 and 40 percent. Ideally, the safest way to store nitrate film is to freeze it, but many archives do not have the financial or environmental means to do so.

As soon as I read the words NITRATE FILM, alarm bells started going off in my head. Donna Baker, the University Archivist, immediately picked up the phone and called Jonathan Trundle, an associate professor in the Media Arts department at MTSU who specializes in photography. We asked him to help us determine whether or not the nature of the film. We consulted the book Photographs: Archival Care and Management, and it stated that nitrate negative strips were sometimes copied onto safety film with the label “NITRATE” transferring onto the new strip. We believed there was a possibility that none of the negatives were printed nitrate film. However, we still believed it was best to call in an expert like Trundle.


He inspected a number of negative strips pulled from different parts of the collection, and he also looked some of the digitized images. Based on the texture of the film and the time period in which the images were captured, he believed that there was a strong possibility I was indeed working with nitrate. There was only one way to know for certain, though: a burn test. Nitrate film will catch fire and burn rapidly; safety film (which replaced nitrate film in the 1950s), on the other hand, will melt slowly. I cut off a few small strips of run off film to test from some negatives that did not contain any images. Baker, Trundle, myself, and the other graduate assistants went outside to conduct the test. I held the strips with a small pair of metal pliers while Trundle used a lighter to ignite the film.

The strip immediately caught fire and burned down to the pliers. We tested a few different strips just to make sure this reaction wasn’t a fluke (and because it was fun), and we quickly realized that I was definitely dealing with an unstable, highly flammable collection of nitrate film. So, how do we care for such a collection?

We determined that Robert Alexander’s physical image collection should no longer be stored in the stacks along with all of our other collections because of the threat it poses to their safety and integrity. For now, we will isolate it in a storage cabinet on the other side of the archive’s fire doors. I have since finished scanning all of the negatives as high-resolution images, so we have digital copies of every image should something go wrong with the physical collection. I rehoused the images into paper envelopes so that any nitrogen dioxide released will not be trapped and speed up decomposition. Baker is currently determining the Gore Center’s options for requesting funding to purchase a cold storage unit, but there is a chance that we may have to dispose of the collection entirely. It poses a threat to the entire archive if we cannot acquire the means to store it correctly, and the digitized images ensure that the historical content of the collection would not be lost entirely.


Moving forward, Trundle will help us review our photo collections to determine if any of them also contain previously-undetected nitrate film. If you have not reviewed your photo collections recently or are unsure of what it contains, conduct a thorough inventory and consult with an expert in the field. You might save your archive.


Ritzenthaler, Mary Lynn and Diane Vogt-O’Connor. Photographs: Archival Care and Management. Chicago: Society of American Archivists, 2006.

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Reflecting on the MT Lambda Exhibit

Written by Alissa Kane, Graduate Assistant

Warning: Some of the content in this blog post and the exhibits contain hateful speech and descriptions of violence toward LGBT+ people.

I am grateful that I have the opportunity to work for the Albert Gore Research Center because they highly encourage their Graduate Assistants to pursue projects in all areas of public history, not just archives. Early on, I indicated to Sarah that I had an interest in curation; that same day I was assigned a project to create exhibits on the history of MT Lambda, an LGBT+ group on MTSU’s campus. This October was the 30th anniversary of MT Lambda’s establishment, and they wished to create an exhibit commemorating the many experiences of this group. I was thrilled to be put on a project relating to this because, as public historians, we need to work hard at telling everyone’s story.

Walking into the first planning meeting for the exhibit, I didn’t know what to expect. I had never been a part of putting an exhibit together and I was nervous, but also incredibly excited. From this meeting I learned that I would be choosing the objects and documents to put on display, and that I would also be writing text panels to interpret these items. Joshua Rigsby, who is the LGBT+ Program Assistant at Intercultural & Diversity Affairs, had been a member/president of MT Lambda when they attended MTSU. Joshua and Donna became the people I touched base with while planning these exhibits. Joshua knew the most about MT Lambda’s history, while Donna helped me with the fabrication of the exhibit displays.


Alissa Kane with the MT Lambda exhibit on display at the Albert Gore Research Center in Todd Hall 128. Photograph taken by Sarah Calise.

There were a total of three exhibit spaces, and Joshua laid out what they wanted each case to cover thematically. It was my job to choose what went into each case. As I was rummaging through the MT Lambda collection looking for items and documents to put on display, I was struck by how much hate the group was receiving and how recent it was. As I was searching for newspaper articles for the Gore Center exhibit (which focused on print media) I was blown away by the amount of homophobia that was present at the time. A quote from one of these articles is on prominent display at the Gore Center exhibit and it reads, “God knows I would rather have both of my arms cut off than be gay.” This quote was from a Sidelines article published in 1993, only five years after MT Lambda’s founding. There are many more examples of hateful articles on display at the Gore center, but there are also articles displaying triumphs such the group’s founding, and a march for rights in Washington, D.C.


MT Lambda exhibit at One Stop. Photograph taken by Alissa Kane.

The second exhibit space at the MT One Stop tells the story of the Uniform Equality Committee (UEC) and their fight to have MTSU include sexual orientation in their non-discrimination policy. One of the cases at this location contains testimony from students and other people in support of amending the policy. Some students spoke of fearing for their lives due to the intensity of harassment they were enduring. Some spoke of being afraid to come out because of the hatred they were seeing towards LGBT+ people in general. Some people were LGBT+ allies who wanted those within the community to be equal and feel supported. The non-discrimination policy eventually passed in 2001, six years after the formation of the UEC. In 2009, gender identity/expression was added to this policy as well. This was not met with nearly as much contention as the 1995 effort.

The third exhibit space was located at James E. Walker Library. This exhibit space covered MT Lambda’s history and the many events they have hosted since the group’s founding. One story that impacted me from this exhibit space was the story of Matthew Shephard, who was an LGBT+ college student at the University of Wyoming in 1998. Matthew was 21 when he was brutally attacked, tied to a fence and tortured. He died from his injuries five days later. As a result of his death, protest for LGBT+ rights erupted throughout the United States. Matthew Shephard’s mother, Judy, was a guest speaker at MTSU for MT Lambda’s annual Spring Out! event. This October was the 20th anniversary of Matthew’s death. Much more recent events, such as the Pulse night club shooting in Orlando, cast a dark shadow and make us question how far we have really come.

Our main goal in creating these exhibits was to show that LGBT+ students at MTSU have seen this hatred, have lived through it, and have had to overcome it. The LGBT+ community has seen great triumphs in working toward equality, like the 2015 United States Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges that declared protection for same-sex marriages under the 14th Amendment. Times have changed for the better since 1980s, when this group was first founded, but achieving true equality is an uphill battle, even today. All we can do is hope and work towards a better future.

See the slideshow below for images of the exhibit at Walker Libary:

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Meet Our FOUR New Graduate Assistants

This year the Albert Gore Research Center welcomed four new graduate assistants from the Public History department. These graduate assistants are vital to the operation of our archive. They conduct everyday tasks, like processing, reference, exhibit development, digitization, and preservation. The Gore Center also provides them with a laboratory learning environment, so they can prepare themselves for successful careers as future public historians and archivists. Learn more about each of these wonderful students below!

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Front to back: Marley Abbott, Quinlan Odom, Casey Swank, and Alissa Kane.

Marley Abbott was born in Nashville, but moved around a lot growing up. She lived overseas and attended TEN different schools before she graduated high school! She received her B.A. in History with a minor in English Literature from University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. Due to her travels, Marley visited many museums and historic sites during her youth, which led her to study public history here at MTSU. “Being able to surround myself with real, physical artifacts and places…is what made me realize that working in a museum would be a dream come true.” She is ready to share her passion for history with the world! Marley’s currently researching and curating an upcoming exhibit on Albert Gore, Sr.

If she could interview any historical figure it would be Oscar Wilde, her favorite writer. After reading Phrases and Philosophies for the Use of the Young, she would ask him what he would advise the youth of today given the chance (bonus points if he did it in the form of one of his famous quips). She also desperately wants to know if the wallpaper was really that ugly?

Quinlan Odom was born in Virginia, but spent most of her childhood in Florida. She received her undergraduate degree in History from MTSU. This is her second year as a master’s student in public history, and she comes to the field interested in bettering the lives of others. She said working at the Gore Center has shown her how archival work can be vital to communities. “I love the idea of archives being centers for community action and empowerment.” She is currently developing an exhibit display for MTSU’s homecoming festivities, so be on the look out for that this October!

Quinlan would love to interview Anne Boleyn, her problematic history fave, about the religious changes she experienced during her lifetime. What influenced her actions, considering her love for Henry VIII?

Casey Swank is from York, Pennsylvania and received her bachelor’s degree in social studies education from Millersville University in May 2015. She moved to Murfreesboro a year ago in order earn her master’s degree and pursue a career as an archivist. This past summer, Casey interned at Sgt. Alvin C. York State Historic Park in northeastern Tennessee where she processed the Sgt. Alvin C. York Papers and the Gracie L. York Papers, as well as gave guided interpretive tours of the York home. Upon graduating, she hopes to find a job as either a processing archivist or as an educational specialist for an archive.

If Casey could interview one historical figure, either living or dead, she would choose her favorite Beatle, George Harrison. Her #1 question would be “How did you manage to deal with such an extreme level of fame and yet live such a spiritual and private life after the breakup of the Beatles?”

Alissa Kane is originally from Frankenmuth, Michigan. She received her undergraduate degree in History with a minor in Public History from Saginaw Valley State University. The areas of public history that interest her most are collections management and curatorial work. Alissa is currently developing an exhibit for the Gore Center’s research room on MT Lambda. The student organization is celebrating their 30th anniversary this year, and they are the oldest LGBT+ higher education student organization in the state of Tennessee.

Alissa would like to interview Queen Elizabeth I, and she would ask, “How did it feel to be such a boss woman in a heavily patriarchal society?”

Now that you “know” our graduate assistants, feel free to stop by and say hi! Remember to follow us on Facebook and Twitter to see what our graduate assistants are up to during the academic year. We look forward to helping you research and preserve the past!

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My Summer at the Gore Center

Written by Mary DePeder, Intern

It’s my last week as the Bart Gordon Papers intern this summer and that is certainly cause for a touch of melancholy. As MTSU revs up for another semester with students moving into dorms, milling around campus, and Halloween decorations slowly inching their way onto store aisles, I think it’s safe to bid summer and Gordon adieu. When I began in May as the Gordon Papers intern I had very limited hands-on archival experience and even less experience working with congressional collections. I was charged with two main objects: to continue the folder level inventory of the Bart Gordon collection and create a digital humanities project based on the collection. I could not have imagined at that point in time where these two seemingly straightforward directions would lead me. Whether stumbling upon unique archival finds or cruising east toward Oak Ridge, TN for exhibit research, this summer was certainly one for the books and one that has given me the opportunity to put my archival theory knowledge to work.


Inventorying the Bart Gordon Papers.

Sorting through stacks of constituent mail early on in my internship proved an exciting and memorable feat. While pausing occasionally to read over interesting snippets of letters I found two surprising items: letters to Congressman Gordon from members of my family. One dated from October 2008 was from my mother and her class of fourth graders. At the time, my mother was teaching her students about endangered animals and one of the solutions drummed up by her class to take action against this was notifying their local representative. So, attached to my mother’s initial letter to Congressman Bart Gordon were 30 musings of nine-year old Black Fox Elementary students on animal conservation.

MD Grandparents letter

Letter from Congressman Bart Gordon to my grandparents.

Then, amazingly, I found a second letter from Gordon addressing my grandparents on their concerns of the raising gas prices in Murfreesboro, TN in 2009. Together, these letters, while reflective of so many constituent letters addressed to Gordon on issues relating to the daily comings and goings of Middle Tennessee life, were incredibly valuable to me as a beginning archivist.

When I wasn’t inventorying the Gordon Papers, a significant amount of my internship was spent researching and creating my digital humanities project. Already drawn in by the allure of Oak Ridge’s history as a secret city and passionate about environmental issues, the project slowly came into focus. And, as an added bonus to investigating a city close by this meant Project Archivist, Sarah Calise, University Archivist, Donna Baker, and I could ditch the brick and mortar for a day and road trip it to Oak Ridge to explore. Music playlists, historical research, and good company make for an eventful day adventure.


At the X-10 Graphite Reactor in Oak Ridge.

In tracking the history of Oak Ridge from 1942 up until today I was able to utilize several of the Albert Gore Research Center’s collections and create a larger narrative of the city’s history. Working primarily with congressional collections for this project has broadened my understanding of how political collections can be used for intersectional work. This concept was also crucial throughout every step of my inventorying process. As a whole, the internship proved to be both a challenging and a rewarding undertaking.

You can learn more about internship and volunteer opportunities at the Gore Center on our website: 

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