Smokies national park facility to be finished by fall 2015

Mar. 04, 2014 @ 11:19 PM

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander announced Monday that construction of the recently approved Joint Curatorial Collections Facility for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is expected to begin this summer, and the building should be finished in the fall of 2015.

The facility will house more than 800,000 historical artifacts and archival records from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and four other national park units in Tennessee. Artifacts and records are currently being stored in facilities that lack environmental controls to protect them from mold, insects and fire, and do not meet National Park Service standards for physical security.

“The National Park Service is in the forever business,” Jewell said. “The National Park Service is in the business of taking care of these assets forever.”

The facility will be adjacent to the Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center in Townsend, and it will preserve 422,000 historical artifacts and 450,000 archival records, including President Andrew Johnson’s presidential papers, land records, oral histories, historic photos and park operating records. The facility will house items such as clothing, vintage weapons, logging-era equipment, farm tools and other possessions from the individuals and families living on the farmsteads of the Southern Appalachians in pre-park days.

“It is really important not just to have these artifacts, but to take care of them, because they won’t be around for generations to come if we don’t take good care of them,” Jewell said.

“East Tennesseans feel like we own the park because many of our families did,” Alexander said. “This is an opportunity to celebrate the way of life of those mountain families who once lived here.”

The total cost for funding the facility is approximately $4.3 million, with more than half of that amount being provided through private donations. Other federal park and recreation areas will be able to make use of the facility, including the Andrew Johnson National Historic Site, Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area, Cumberland Gap National Historic Park and Obed Wild and Scenic River.

“This facility is a home for the things that were in the homes of the people who lived in the park; it’s a way to celebrate the way of life that was here and continues to be in this region of our United States,” Alexander said. “This is a great day for anyone who loves the Great Smoky Mountains, and there are millions of people who do.”