WCU’s ‘Great Smoky Mountains: A Park for America’ brochure welcomes visitors

As the National Park Service celebrates its centennial this year with a theme of “Find Your Park,” Western Carolina University’s Hunter Library will help visitors to North Carolina with a new brochure based on its digital collection “Great Smoky Mountains: A Park for America.”

North Carolina welcome centers are distributing the tri-fold brochures, which provide illustrated, at-a-glance information on the history of America’s most visited national park and how to get more information through the digital collection housed at the library. The nine welcome centers are located on interstates and promote attractions, accommodations and events to travelers.

The brochure, featuring archival photography and maps, looks at life in the mountains, preservation of forests and the establishment and building of the park, said Anna Fariello, associate professor of Hunter Library’s digital initiatives.

Great Smoky Mountains A Park for America cover image“Throughout the state, anyone stopping at a welcome center can pick up a brochure and have an informed glimpse into the nation’s most popular park,” she said. “In April, the welcome center north of Asheville on I-26 will host an exhibit by Hunter Library. As we’re the university closest to the Smokies and have a wonderful partnership with the national park, I think 2016 and the national parks’ centennial will hold some special moments for WCU.”

The National Park Service turns 100 on Aug. 25, the date in 1916 when President Woodrow Wilson signed the act creating a new federal bureau in the Department of the Interior to maintain parks and monuments. In celebration of that milestone, the National Park Service has launched an initiative to promote community connections to public lands, natural resources and cultural heritage.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park was established in 1934 and formally dedicated by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1940. The 500,000-acre park is located in Western North Carolina and eastern Tennessee, receiving as many as 10 million visitors annually.

The WCU digital collection and accompanying interpretive website features documents and photographs that relate to the initial idea and construction of a national park in the eastern U.S. Highlights of the collection include journals compiled by author (and park proponent) Horace Kephart in preparation for his 1906 landmark book “Camping and Woodcraft,” which remains in print; records of the Appalachian National Park Association about early efforts to establish a park in the region; and photographs by Jim Thompson and George Masa, among others.

Also prominently featured is the Civilian Conservation Corps, the Depression-era public works relief program whose young men constructed hiking trails, campgrounds and other amenities within the park, and memorabilia from the Smoky Mountains Hiking Club. The online documents and photographs are from the archives of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina’s Western Regional Archives, and Hunter Library’s own Special Collections. To view WCU’s “Great Smoky Mountains: A Park for America” collection, go to digitalcollections.wcu.edu.

The project is supported by grants from the Institute of Museum and Library Services and the State Library of North Carolina. For more information on digital collections at Hunter Library, contact Liz Skene at 828-227-2674 or Fariello at 828-227-2499 or fariello@wcu.edu.