For Kingsport's archives, 'it's time to come out of the basement'

Matthew Lane • Mar 4, 2018 at 8:00 AM

KINGSPORT — It’s time for Kingsport’s archives to come out of the basement.

Brianne Wright, the lone city employee responsible for maintaining and overseeing the archives of the Model City, shared that sentiment last week when talking about the future plans for the archives.

City officials announced last month that once Kingsport moves City Hall into the Regions Bank building, the plan is to locate the archives on the fourth floor and have displays from the collection on the first and second.

It’ll definitely bring more awareness to what’s in the archives.

“I’m excited about moving,” Wright said. “Our facility isn’t bad. It’s just not ideal. Lots of people have no clue (the archives is down here). Some archivists might like that, but I’m of the school of thought, why have all this stuff if you can’t share it and make it accessible to people.”

What’s in the archives?

In case you weren’t aware, the city’s archives is located in the basement of the Kingsport Public Library. It’s the set of stairs located in the middle of the main floor. Going up leads to the reference area, and going down leads to the archives.

Established in 1994, the archives is essentially the repository for Kingsport’s history. It includes hundreds of photographs, slides, negatives, documents, financial records and BMA minutes from the city, along with some artifacts, like an old city football helmet and derby racecar.

“There are about 800 collections, not including the books. Some may only have one item. Others, like the Muriel Spoden collection, have 80-some boxes. It runs the gamut.”

A majority of the items in the archives came from private donations and donations come in throughout the year. People drop stuff off all the time, Wright said.

Better exposure

The Board of Mayor and Aldermen recently approved the purchase of the Regions Bank building in downtown Kingsport, and over the course of the next two years, the city is planning to do some renovations to the building and fully move in by the summer of 2020.

One idea is for the archives to have displays on the first and second floors of the new City Hall. Odds are the displays will be of the many historical photographs found in the collection. The archives has two displays in the library currently and at times puts photographs on display in the City Hall lobby.

“The move will make stuff more visible. With more traffic in and out, people will realize the great resource we have,” Wright said. “It’s time to come out of the basement. It’s something that’s long overdue.”

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