Progress on “Locals,” Images to Come Soon!

As my research progressed this past week, I began to get a clearer idea of how my “Locals” section is going to pan out. I have already expressed the fact that the menu would be changing slightly, but I have settled on two subtopics: “Land” and “Economy”. “Land” will explore the connection between the Parkway, locals, and issues with land. In many cases locals had to evacuate their land because of the Parkway and in other cases they did not have to leave. I feel this is important to explore because it directly affected the lives of locals and in some cases the agriculture as well. Supporting primary sources for this section are the records of land sales, complaints from locals, and information within BRP documents about other ways locals have interacted with Parkway land. “Economy” will focus largely on the proposed effect the Parkway would have on the local economy versus the actual affect that it has had. This sections is perhaps one of the most notable ways that tourist migration on the Parkway has helped shape WNC. In this section I plan on pulling a goodly amount of information from the visitor reports as well as some of the arguments from primary sources that pushed for the BRP to run through WNC in order to boost the economy that had never quite recovered from the Great Depression.

I also wanted to include a section about culture, but I am still unsure whether or not “Culture” should be its own page or should be combined with another. Would “Land and Culture” work, or is “Economics and Culture” better? Or, as I said, should “Culture” become its own freestanding page? Either way culture will appear on the website under “Locals.” As per the course description on the Cultural Crossroads course website, we are encouraged to look at how our migrant community has influenced music, labor relations, agriculture, and arts and crafts. So far my research indicates that the Parkway has effected these institutions by, well, encouraging them to remain the same. One might even say that in the early days of the Parkway local culture was actually urged to present itself as imbibing all the stereotypes that the rest of the nation had in regards to “mountain folk.” Personally I find this a bit depressing since generations of my family have lived here. I mean, who actually enjoys reading stereotypes about their people? Still, it’s interesting to see how locals and surrounding communities may have played on these stereotypes in order to attract visitors. Clearly I still have some things to work out, but I have a much better sense of direction than I did a week ago and have put up a rough draft narrative on my “Locals” landing page. As I continue working on “Locals,” I am also starting to think more about the “Tourists” section that Liz and I will work on together. But we will cross that bridge when we get there.

The website is slowly—piece by small piece—coming together. Liz has added some information in about COPLAC and the project. We are also toying with the idea of having “Did You Know?” or “Fun Fact” sections throughout the website. These wouldn’t be large. They would essentially be small images that would give our readers some fun facts about the BRP. After all, we have gained quite a bit of random information that doesn’t necessarily fit into our actual narrative, but it would be a shame not to use it somehow! Tomorrow Liz and I will go back to the BRP archives to meet up with Jackie and scan some images. We have chosen a variety of pictures that we thought highlighted the history of the Parkway. I am sure we will eventually find some more, but we have over twenty to choose from as of now. We are looking forward to adding some visual primary sources to the website!

Archives and the Art of Digging

Today (and the past few days, really) were spent with primary and secondary sources. On Thursday Liz and I paid a visit to the Blue Ridge Parkway archives on Riceville Road. I found some reports on visitor usage of the Parkway, including recreational, non-recreational, and overnight. Liz and I also found some correspondences on land acquisition. Apparently selling land to the Parkway was…. not usually by choice in North Carolina. If a landowner refused to sell the state would “condemn” the property, which means the owner would still get money for the land, but they were forced to evacuate it as they could not live on condemned property. It was a pretty messed up way to go about it, but there you have it. This wasn’t always the case but it did happen sometimes.

I also purchased a copy of Anne Whisnant’s book, Super Scenic Motorway: A Blue Ridge Parkway History. I knew it would be invaluable, but it was absolute gold! Not only did it point me in the direction of more primary sources, it also gave me some ideas for the website. Now I am sure our “subtopics” will change, but reading Dr. Whisnant’s book really got me thinking about how I am going to construct the “Locals” section. I am not going to divulge quite yet what I think the new subtopics may be, but I have a few ideas that I hope to play around with in the next couple of days. Our next milestone is October 26th. By this date Liz and I agreed to have a narrative on the Home, Acknowledgments, and About Project pages as well as each of the landing pages for Construction, Locals, and Tourism. We also intended to complete at least one subpage under Construction, Locals, and Tourism done. That being said, we need to figure out our menu and subtopics soon!

While we ponder over our menu we will be visiting the BRP archives again (on Tuesday, I believe) where Jackie has more than enough documents to keep us busy. And in between visits to the archives we have digitized primary sources to explore, the website design to work on, and secondary sources to peruse. So much to do, so little time!

History, Mystery, and Political Intrigue?

Weede, Fred. Battle for the Blue Ridge Parkway. 1957. Buncombe County Public Library. Asheville, North Carolina.

The mystery! The political intrigue! A previously hidden history! Fred Weede promised all of this in the foreword of his document (a memoir, perhaps? I am not sure at this time what it is) that provides an insider’s view of the battle between North Carolina and Tennessee for the Parkway. Weede, former Manager of the Asheville Chamber of Commerce, had left files on nearly half a century worth of Asheville and Western North Carolina history, which his successor apparently had destroyed. At this time (I am about 9 pages in) I have not discovered why all of these valuable documents were destroyed, but I found this intriguing! However, upon retiring Weede had taken a few letters with him which were “of such personal nature that I felt their contents should not be available to anyone else, since the writers were still living and might be embarrassed should their correspondences with me be made public.” Again, I have not yet reached the part where Weede reveals the contents of the letters, but I was hooked. Weede indicates these letters will be included in his narrative. What was so sensitive that Weede insisted on waiting until his Correspondences had passed away to reveal the contents of the letters? He also promises to relate all that transpired, “in the open and behind the scenes,” as he was informed of every movement along the way. Apparently, according to the author, at the time he wrote this document there was only one other living individual who knew as much as he did about what transpired in the open and in secret.

Now, did Weede take a more dramatic tone than necessary? Did I simply misinterpret the meaning behind Weede’s foreword? Or will Weede deliver the political excitement and secrecy that he promised? And WHY were all those valuable documents destroyed? I later read that Weede’s successor had them burned. I cannot for the life of me figure out why someone would do this instead of turning it over to an archive. I have yet to learn the answers to all these questions but will surely keep you all updated as I uncover Weede’s truth. At this point it seems like the battle between NC and TN for the Blue Ridge Parkway was rather intense!

For an update on our progress: Yesterday afternoon Liz and I took a trip to the Blue Ridge Parkway Headquarters to meet with Jackie Holt. While we didn’t look at as many actual primary sources, the folks at the BRP gave us plenty of sources on a flash drive! In addition, Jackie gave us a couple of oral histories of individuals who were at the CCC camp in North Carolina. We also had a nice talk with the landscape architect. He knew a bit more about how the Parkway acquired land from locals (hint: in NC the land wasn’t given up voluntarily) and gave us maps of some of the land acquired by the state from individuals for the purpose of the Parkway. It was overall an extremely productive visit. We are going to meet Jackie at the BRP archives tomorrow to possibly get our hands on more sources. In the meantime we have more than enough digital sources to keep us busy. Now that we finally have to opportunity to start digging into primary sources, I am both relieved and intimidated. There’s so much to sort through and interpret, so much information to organize. And then there is the matter of putting it into a form that the public can take in and absorb. I’m sure we will get through it all, so for now I will just focus on interpreting each document in turn.

Archives, More Archives, Dirt, and Structural Changes (on the Website)

Liz and I visited the Western Regional Archives (WRA) on Thursday for our first real session at the archives. There are a couple different collections that we are interested in, but we spent Thursday going through the Blue Ridge Parkway photograph collection. This collection consists of somewhere around 15 boxes or so of images of the construction of the Parkway.  We saw more rocks, dirt, and felled trees that we could ever want to see. Some pictures were literal just dirt… no indication of what was going on or where the images was taken. We also found plenty of pictures of random objects placed on the gravel-covered ground. This was for a size comparison, I’m sure, but it was bizarre how many size comparisons the photographer felt was necessary. Liz and I now have a great idea about the size of the gravel in comparison to coins and pens. While it wasn’t quite what we anticipated, we still found some materials that we believe we can use! Liz will be creating a section on the website that discusses the construction of the Parkway, and I will also briefly visit the topic while researching locals who helped with construction. We found plenty of images of men working on the BRP that will fit in nicely as illustrations of our narrative. We also found some nice scenic shots to use as background images and on the home page. Heather South at the WRA also gave us a couple of really useful secondary sources to look at. We are happy with the progress that we made, but needless to say we will be going back soon.

I did make some personal progress on the website. I finally completed my timeline, footnotes and all! I may go back and tweak the description on the individual newspaper articles, but for the most part it is finished, although it’s a week later than our personal schedule of milestones indicated. It was a relief to complete the timeline, especially since I continued to experience difficulties right up until the very end with getting images to load. Other progress that we have made on the website is actually a regression in some of the ideas that we had. We initially had all these wonderful pages laid out but have since realized that we may not find enough information on each individual subjects to warrant a separate page for each, so we will most likely end up combining some pages. This wasn’t completely unexpected—we even indicated in our contract that our “subtopics” may change depending on the sources available. While slightly disappointing, this is both a setback and a blessing. We would have really loved to develop this website to its fullest extent, but given the time that we have to complete everything and the possible lack of resources on some topics, we simply will not be able to create all the pages we wanted. However, this is probably best for us since it takes a lot of pressure off our shoulders to find enough sources to support every single topic to the extent that a full page can be created for it. We will also be able to give more attention to the pages we do have, meaning we can make sure these pages are top notch. We aren’t sure exactly how this will play out quite yet, but we are prepared for the possibility of topic changes/combinations.

I plan to spend the next couple of days looking through all the documents that Jack Holt (curator for the Blue Ridge Parkway) gave Liz. I have already uncovered an interesting report on African Americans and their interaction with the Parkway, including how their use of the Parkway was shaped by segregation laws. Liz and I have also set up a time to meet with Jackie on Tuesday to possibly view some other primary sources that are of interest to us. We may or may not be in class on Tuesday, but regardless we will be spending this time focusing on the website!

Field Trip Tomorrow!

Let me preface this by saying that I have not made nearly as much progress as I would have liked to by this point. That being said, most of the progress that I have made has dealt with the timeline. I suppose I am ok with this… the timeline is one of two interactive components on our website, so it is important that it be fully developed. I expect that I will have it completely done, citations and all, within the week.

I have neglected to explore many secondary sources, although I suspect Anne Whisnant’s works will play a big role in our project, both for her personal interpretation of BRP history as well the wealth of primary sources that her book and website contain.

Overall my (personal) lack of progress is disheartening and embarrassing. I am, however, very pleased to announce that Liz and I have made plans to visit the Western Regional Archives (WRA) tomorrow to begin researching! The WRA houses two collections that are of particular interest to us. First, they are in possession of a collection of photographs from the Blue Ridge Parkway. These pictures show everything from the construction of the parkway to buildings that were on the parkway and possibly more. There are a dozen or so boxes, so I haven’t gone through them all. The WRA recently came in possession of a collection from a local tourism commission. This collection has articles upon articles of leaf-lookers in Western North Carolina, and I am told that there are dozens pertaining to the Parkway. We imagine our website having a section under “Tourism” that discusses leaf-lookers, so we are hoping that we may possibly gather a lot of sources for this page. Maybe—dare I hope?—enough sources for the page. Liz also gave me an ethnography that she got from the National Park Service folks about people in this region and their relationship with the BRP. I haven’t been able to peruse this source quite yet, but my understanding from the abstract was that this source focuses on locals in the area. Perhaps I will use our free class time tomorrow to set down with a nice cuppa and read this ethnography.

I sincerely apologize for my poor progress this past week or so, but we are planning to kick things up a notch beginning tomorrow. If our hunches and Heather South’s description of her collections are anything to judge by, we will be finding more pictures and leaf-looker articles than we know what to do with!

Embedding and Troubleshooting Timelines

This has been a whirlwind of a week and it’s showing no sign of easing up any time soon! My timeline is far from done, but it is up and running on our website. I had initially put in our contract that the timeline should be close to complete by September 30th. I didn’t realize that I chose the worst week imaginable to add another deadline to my list. However, it is coming along nicely! In our last class I mentioned that I was experiencing issues with the newspaper articles loading onto the timeline. I think I resolved my issue, though I’m not sure how or what was wrong to begin with. When I would “clip” an article on and embed the link onto the timeline spreadsheet, the newly added link would not load properly when the timeline was viewed. I figured out that I could not use the link available immediately after I clipped the article. Rather, I had to go into the “My Clippings” option under the menu and retrieve the embed link from there. Does that make sense? No? It’s ok. It doesn’t make sense to me either. I’m not sure why I have to go this longer, alternative route, but as long as it works I’m not complaining! After I figured this out I experienced little trouble in adding new articles. I plan on adding a few more (not exceeding 20 total articles). I also plan on adding the proper citations in at the bottom of the page, but have not found the time to do that quite yet.
I also managed to create a Title Slide! The only problem is I cannot figure out how to get the photo credit to display. It’s on my spreadsheet, but does not appear on the slide… so I will continue working on that.
The only other problem I am having is how the timeline displays on the website. When viewed in its own tab the timeline is nice and wide and the pictures look great. When viewed on the website the width is substantially smaller and the newspaper article images do not look NEARLY as good. I think this is because of the sidebar menu feature on our theme. I don’t know if we want to completely get rid of the sidebar menu, so I have a plan to try and fix the issue with a different variation of the embed code. When grabbing the embed code from, the website gives the option of small, medium, and large images. I have been using large so far, but I think I will go back and try the small or medium options.

All in all I am quite pleased with how it is coming along. I wish the timeline was completely finished at this point and the citations added below, but I will just have to double my efforts in this coming week. I have included the timeline below, but it also lives on the homepage of our website.