Partners in a mountain Craft Revival Project headquartered at Western Carolina University’s Hunter Library had plenty to celebrate when they got together recently. Not only has the project received a second year of funding worth $126,000, but partners say it is well on its way toward creating a significant, Web-based, digital archive of craft materials that now are widely dispersed throughout Western North Carolina.
“We have a lot to be proud of,” said Wilson “Bil” Stahl, project director and university librarian, as he, Western Chancellor John Bardo, Provost Kyle Carter and project leader Anna Fariello greeted guests at a recent campus celebration of the launching of the project’s second year.
With an initial grant of $85,000 for the project’s first year, Western and the craft revival partners obtained state-of-the-art digitizing equipment and developed procedures for scanning materials and sharing data. The collaborating partners scanned and documented more than 100 items, including furniture, coverlets, documents, photographs and maps. Fariello developed information explaining the history and technique of various crafts and created brief histories with links to each partner’s Web site.
Together, the partners will expand that work in the coming year and add a major effort to let people know about the Craft Revival Project through posters, postcards and in-person presentations at area libraries and cultural sites.
“It is important for teachers, students, researchers, historians, archivists and others to know about the Craft Revival Digital Archive because it will offer a unique glimpse into an important period of our region,” Fariello said. “Without the craft revival movement of the late 1800s and early 1900s, much of the work of mountain craftspeople would have been lost and their handcrafting skills might have died out.”
Instead, the revival triggered the growth of handcraft guilds, weaving centers and folk schools; attracted tourists, scholars and artisans to the region; helped to promote the sale of traditional mountain crafts; and shaped the development of new crafts as mountain tourism flourished.
“This exciting, new online collection will tell the story of the revival and create a display of craft items now scattered in museums, craft schools, libraries and local historical societies,” Fariello said. “When the project is complete, that material will be gathered into one Web-based, digital archive that will be accessible to the world.”
Joining WCU officials for the celebration were Jan Davidson, director of the John C. Campbell Folk School; the school’s folklorist, David Brose; Susan Leveille, owner of the Dillsboro-based Riverwood
Galleries and trustee of Penland School of Crafts; Penland’s archivist, Michelle Francis; Scott Philyaw, director of Western’s Mountain Heritage Center; Suzanne McDowell, Mountain Heritage Center curator; and George Frizzell, head of special collections at Hunter Library. Unable to attend were Tom Bailey, executive director of the Southern Highland Craft Guild, and the guild’s librarian, Deb Schillo.
The project team is currently working with Qualla Arts and Crafts Mutual, and the Museum of the Cherokee Indian to determine Cherokee participation in the Craft Revival Project, with the hope of including Cherokee crafts. Other “heritage partners” will be added during the project’s third year. The completed Web site is scheduled to be launched in spring 2008. To watch the collection as it is being created, go to http://craftrevival.wcu.edu .
Western’s Craft Revival Project is funded in part by a grant, which is renewable for three years for a potential total of $350,000, from the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services, through the North Carolina State Library. Western received one of only two Heritage Partners grants awarded since the inception of the program.