The Musical Side of Murphy Center

Written by Donna Baker, University Archivist

It is not unusual for archivists to get attached to their collections.  When you are the University Archivist, you can get attached to a particular place and protective of the people associated with that place.  Whether I am conscious of it or not, I am looking out for connections to the institution I archive.  For me, no matter where I am, even on vacation, Middle Tennessee State University and Murfreesboro are always in the back on my mind. For example, on the Cayamo cruise this year while watching Steve Earle and Shawn Colvin perform, a story brought MTSU immediately into my focus.

Mr. Earle told the audience the origin story about Guitar Town.  Guitar Town was not just Steve Earle’s debut album, but also is considered one of the 500 greatest albums ever by Rolling Stone.  He explained that he had written the songs on the album after watching Bruce Springsteen in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.  He had gone home 4 hours later (a joke about the marathon that is a Springsteen show) and wrote most the songs on the album.

Murfreesboro?  He could have only seen Bruce Springsteen at Murphy Center on the campus of MTSU.  Did he camp out with the others for tickets, or did a friend get him a ticket?  These thoughts kept cycling through my brain.  After vacation, when I got back to the Albert Gore Research Center, I tried to write a blog post about this.  I struggled with this post through March, which was the thirtieth anniversary of the release of Guitar Town. I finally set this aside to wait on a sunny day to finish it.  “Someday,” I thought, and went on with the business of archiving MTSU.

It has been thirty-two years this month since Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band played at Murphy Center. This was in the middle of the Born in the U.S.A tour, and Murphy Center was the only venue in the immediate area at that time that could handle the size and intensity of a Springsteen show.   University Archives materials help tell the story of this event. The “Bruce Springsteen” file in the Student Programming Records is a half-inch thick, with one draft of the show rider alone being 29 pages. We learn about staging and promotion of this show from these files, including just how complicated it was for Harold Smith, Director of Student Programming, to bring Springsteen to Murfreesboro. We learn from this file that there was a strict “No Camera” rule that applied to everyone, including MTSU’s own staff photographer. No detail was overlooked to ensure “the intimacy of a Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band performance.”


The student newspaper, Sidelines, reported that some people camped out for weeks to get tickets. In an article from 7 December 1984, a mother is quoted as saying to her son, “Why would you camp out three days for a concert?  Who is this guy?”


In the same article, there is speculation about the set list, suggesting that “Jungleland” (from Born To Run) would be replaced by his famous rendition of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.”


As the Fall semester ended right after the concert, the review of the show had to wait until January 1985. The article can only hint at the show Steve Earle saw that night. To quote the article:

Few performers dare to say something substantial with their music, especially if it steps on someone’s toes, but Springsteen does more. He not only awakens the public to controversial themes, he packages his ideas in an ingenious musical presentation for impact, and the fans eat it up.


I am an archivist, not a music critic, so I am not quite qualified to compare the political and controversial implications of Steve Earle’s oeuvre to Bruce Springsteen’s.  (Something tells me that both Mr. Earle and Mr. Springsteen would hate that anyway.) What is important to me is not how much Springsteen’s work influenced Earle’s output on Guitar Town, but how this specific event impacted Steve Earle artistically. Had Murphy Center not hosted The Boss, Mr. Earle might have tried to see him in Birmingham, Memphis, or Atlanta.  Still, the logistical challenges to get to those shows might have been too much to overcome for a yet-unknown artist. He could have missed the show, and his debut album would have been a different creation.

For a time, MTSU was able to bring famous acts such as Bob Hope, Elton John, and Elvis to its students and community with this facility.  Gone are the big concerts staged at Murphy Center, though it sees its share of activities and events.  While there is only one Steve Earle, who knows how many others were inspired to create and dream by the artists who performed at Murphy Center?


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Albert Gore Research Hours Update

The Albert Gore Research Center will be open to researchers by appointment only from Monday, December 12, 2016, through Thursday, December 22, 2016.

Middle Tennessee State University will close for Winter Break on Friday, December 23, 2016, through Monday, January 2, 2017.

The AGRC will be available to researchers by appointment again from Tuesday, January 3, 2017 through Friday, January 13, 2017.

The Center will resume normal business hours for the Spring semester on Tuesday, January 17, 2017.

If you have any questions or need to schedule a research appointment, please email Donna Baker at

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On the Road Again: The National Historic Preservation Act 50th Anniversary Exhibit Travels to West Tennessee Delta Heritage Center

On Monday December 5, 2016, Albert Gore Research Center Director Dr. Louis Kyriakoudes and graduate assistant Julie Maresco traveled to the West Tennessee Delta Heritage Center in Brownsville, Tennessee, to install the traveling exhibit at its second stop.  The National Historic Preservation Act of 1966: Preserving Tennessee’s Cultural heritage for 50 Years exhibit consists of 5 panels that show the affects of the NHPA on a national, state, region, and local level. You may have learned about this exhibit and how it came to be from Ms. Maresco’s 24 October blog.  West Tennessee Delta Heritage Center Director Sonia Outlaw-Clark created an additional panel featuring Haywood County’s preservation efforts and the work of their local Haywood Heritage Foundation.

Ms. Outlaw-Clark organized the exhibit’s opening reception, which was well attended by friends from the community and state.  (Please see the slide show below.)  She also gave Dr. Kyriakoudes and Ms. Maresco a tour of the historical properties under her stewardship, including Delta Heritage Center, the Flagg Grove School (childhood school of Tina Turner), and the home of Sleepy John Estes.

Slide show of the opening reception at the West Tennessee Delta Heritage Center

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As this was the second stop for the exhibit, and because many parties were interviewed by WBBJ News Channel 7, there was time for reflection about the exhibit–the process, purpose and what it might mean for Tennesseans.  For Ms. Maresco, the exhibit was a positive experience and “this exhibit was a meaningful project that provided me with the opportunity to apply historic preservation theory from the classroom to the field by reaching out to communities and learning how buildings and landscapes are important to them.”  Dr. Kyriakoudes sees the exhibit as an opportunity to unite communities through historic preservation efforts. “Tennessee is a large state, of course we have our historic three regions, but we share a broader common history and historic preservation in one way that we can recognize and celebrate that history.”

The stops for the exhibit are at the following institutions:

1.) Tusculum College’s Andrew Johnson Library and Museum in Greeneville, TN                  2.) West Tennessee Delta Heritage Center in Brownsville, TN                                                        3.) Historic Lebanon in Lebanon, TN                                                                                                      4.) the Promise Land Community in Dickson County, TN                                                                5.) the Heritage Center in Murfreesboro, TN

The exhibit is the work of the Albert Gore Research Center in conjunction with the Center for Historic Preservation and the Middle Tennessee State University public history program.

Click here to see WBBJ news Channel 7’s article on the exhibit

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AGRC meets Veterans at Stones River National Battlefield and visitors listen to the Veterans Voice: Stories of Service Podcast

They Fought For Us:

The stories of veterans and their service at Stones River National Battlefield

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Written by graduate assistant Julie Maresco

On Saturday November 12, 2016, AGRC director Dr. Kyriakoudes, special projects archivist Sarah Calise, graduate assistant Julie Maresco, and PhD candidate Tiffany Momon visited Stones River Battlefield to meet with veterans, set up interviews for oral history interviews, and set up listening stations for visitors to hear the Veterans Voices: Stories of Service podcast episodes. They were joined by Dr. Kyriakoudes’s daughter Helen Kyriakoudes.

Veterans Ernest Newsom and Albert W. Wade Jr. made appointments to meet with us and talk about their time in the military. We look forward to working with them in the near future to record and share their stories. If you would like to participate in the veterans oral history project or know someone would be, contact us today to set up an appointment.






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Bart Gordon at the Bottom of the World

Written by Sarah Calise, Project Archivist

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) celebrates World Science Day for Peace and Development every year on November 10th. To honor this important day, the AGRC would like to share some archival documents from the Bart Gordon Papers pertaining to the Congressman’s involvement with the United States Antarctic Program (USAP).


An image of the Transantarctic Mountains block ice flowing from the east Antarctic plateau in the McMurdo Dry Valleys. (Bart Gordon Papers)

Gordon was a high-ranking member in the House of Representatives’ Committee on Science. In 1996, the Committee on Science participated in a hearing on the National Science and Technology Council’s assessment of USAP, the state of the South Pole station, and the budget for continuing a year-round scientific presence in the region. The NSTC’s report endorsed the value of USAP and its continued need as a center for research on various issues like climate change, life on Mars, plant and animal life, and the depletion of the ozone layer.

Gordon made a couple of trips to Antarctica during his time as a congressman. One trip occurred in light of the hearing with the NSTC. In 1996, from December 10 to the December 20, he traveled to the Antarctic in order to evaluate America’s research and security interests. Gordon wrote a brief summary of his time there, titled “My Trip to the Bottom of the World” (see scans of the entire summary below). In the article, he described the brutal travel conditions–a total of 45 hours of flight time to reach the South Pole along with 41 below zero temperatures. Yet, for Gordon, it was all worth it. He visited two of the three major research stations that USAP operates–McMurdo station and Amundsen-Scott South Pole station. The third station, Palmer, focuses on the effects of the depletion of the ozone layer on Earth. Following his adventure south, Gordon recommended that the U.S. continue its research in the region.

One major aspect of Gordon’s trip was learning of USAP’s research on climate change. He stated that American scientists “found evidence of dramatic climatic changes” and that they were drilling a hole to the Earth’s core to study weather patterns dating back 1,000 years. He explained that the scientists were studying the Antarctica ice sheet that showed signs of breaking away, which would cause a dangerous rise in sea levels and flooding throughout much of the world.


Bart Gordon, third from left, at the McMurdo Station at the south tip of Ross Island in Antarctica on December 3, 2007. (Image courtesy of the Antarctic Photo Library)

20 years later, 192 states and the European Union have signed the Paris Agreement. On November 4, 2016, the United States and many other countries officially entered the Agreement into force. The Agreement is part of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. According to the UN, the Paris Agreement “builds upon the Convention and–for the first time –brings all nations into a common cause to undertake take ambitious efforts to combat climate change and adapt to its effects, with enhanced support to assist developing countries to do so. As such, it charts a new course in the global climate effort.”

On World Science Day, the AGRC urges citizens to become knowledgeable about our beautiful but threatened planet and to contact your local and state officials about combating climate change.

Update: cover_brpIn 2011, President Obama appointed Bart Gordon to the twelve-member U.S. Antarctic Program Blue Ribbon Panel tasked with conducting an independent review of USAP. The panel’s goal was to ensure USAP’s sustainability for scientific endeavors, international collaborations, and a strong U.S. presence in Antarctica for decades into the future. After months of research, several days of briefings and trips to the USAP stations, the panel produced its final report, “More and Better Science in Antarctica through Increased Logistical Effectiveness.,” which you can view and download on the panel’s official website.

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The AGRC at the 2016 Society of Tennessee Archivists Annual Meeting

Written by Bradley Harjehausen, graduate assistant

The 2016 Society of Tennessee Archivists Annual Meeting was held at the Williamson County Archives in Franklin on Saturday, October 29. Sarah Calise, Project Archivist, and I attended the meeting with the theme “Three-Party Harmony: Archives, Genealogy, & You.” While genealogical holdings and services are not a major focus of the Albert Gore Research Center, the speakers presented relevant and interesting information to our site.


The first of three speakers was Melissa Barker, archivists of the Houston County Archives. She suggested archives reach out to genealogists and the public by putting items on display at archive open houses or community meetings. Reasons include archives belonging to the community and genealogists and the general public being unaware of archives’ holdings. John F. Baker, Jr. presented the research behind his book The Washingtons of Wessyngton Plantation: Stories of My Family’s Journey to Freedom. He used multiple research methods to trace his once enslaved family’s history at Wessyngton Plantation dating back to 1796. He also traced the descendants of other African Americans and the plantation owners. The final speaker was Carol Roberts, Conservation Manger in Preservation Services at Tennessee State Library and Archives. She presented the benefits and downfalls of using, which is composed of user-generated entrees of grave sites from around the world. The purpose is documenting, locating and maintaining grave sites.

Sarah and I found the presentations interesting and overall applicable to the work at the AGRC. They challenge us and all archives to explore and utilize new resources and methods. These make archival materials and their information accessible to genealogists and all other archive users.

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New exhibit celebrating the 50th anniversary of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 begins to travel

Written by graduate assistant Julie Maresco

For the past year, the Albert Gore Research Center has been working with MTSU’s public history program graduate students and faculty to curate a travelling exhibit celebrating the 50th anniversary of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) of 1966. The exhibit The National Historic Preservation Act of 1966: Commemorating 50 years of Preserving Tennessee’s Cultural Heritage consists of six panels that focus on the national, state, regional, and local impact of the NHPA and preservation efforts since the passing of the act.

Over the summer, AGRC graduate assistant Julie Maresco conducted research for the exhibit, collected images and graphics, and wrote the exhibit text. The exhibit team also included:

  • Dallas Hanbury, recent doctoral graduate of the public history program
  • Katherine Hatfield, graduate student
  • Donna Baker, University Archivist
  • Dr. Bren Martin, Director of MTSU’s public history program
  • Dr. Antoinette van Zelm, Assistant Director, Center for Historic Preservation
  • Dr. Louis Kyriakoudes, Director, Albert Gore Research Center

Dr. Kyriakoudes and Graduate Assistant Julie Maresco installing the NHPA Exhibit in the President Andrew Johnson Museum & Library at Tusculum College 

On Thursday, October 20, 2016, Dr. Kyriakoudes and Ms. Maresco drove to Tusculum College in Greeneville, TN to install the exhibit at its first location in the President Andrew Johnson Museum & Library. To install the panels, Dr. Kyriakoudes and Ms. Maresco worked with:

  • Dollie Boyd, Director of Museums of Tusculum College
  • Peter Noll, Assistant Professor of Public History and Museum Studies
  • Alex Rolison, student
  • Mamie Hassell, student

Afterwards, Dollie gave them gave them a tour of the museum, library, archive, and the historic Doak House Museum on campus.


From left to right: Dr. Louis Kyriakoudes, Mamie Hassell, Dollie Boyd, Julie Maresco, and Alex Rolison

The exhibit was displayed during Tusculum College’s Homecoming Weekend and enjoyed by Tusculum College students, faculty, and visitors. It will travel again in December to the West Tennesseee Delta Heritage Center then to local middle Tennessee institutions and other sites throughout the state.

Current Students, Alums, Faculty, and Members of the Community viewing the NHPA Exhibit

Support for this exhibit was made possible by:


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