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!
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.
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.
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.
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!