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Collection provides link to voices of pre-SNP life

Professional scholars and local history enthusiasts alike can now delve into the extensive Shenandoah National Park Oral History Collection to learn more about life in the Blue Ridge Mountains before the park’s creation in the 1930s.

Professionals in James Madison University Libraries and Educational Technologies, where the resource has been housed in Special Collections, have digitized and compiled transcripts of the bulk of the 135-interview collection, making it readily available for study.

“The words and voices of the people who lived on the land that became Shenandoah National Park have much to tell,” said Mark Purington, cataloging manager in Libraries and Educational Technologies. Researchers interested in learning about topics such as Civilian Conservation Corps camps, self-sufficient farming, folk medicine, moonshine and food preservation will find a wealth of information in the first-hand accounts of the mountain people.

The oral history collection’s audio interviews, transcripts and photographs offer “an extremely important piece of historical information” for study by historians, anthropologists, artists, linguists and specialists in many other disciplines, said Trevor Alvord, Special Collections librarian.

The digital collection brings together interviews conducted primarily by Dorothy Noble Smith, a longtime writer for the “Page News & Courier,” a weekly newspaper in Page County. She published “Recollections: The People of the Blue Ridge Remember,” her findings based on the oral histories, in 1983. Members of the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club, park collaborators Eugene and Diane Zior Wilhelm, Darwin Lambert and other people also conducted interviews. The earliest interviews date to 1964.

JMU received the collection from Shenandoah National Park in 2001. Originally stored at the park’s headquarters in Luray, the documents were not available to the public because the oral histories were not considered official park records.

The Shenandoah National Park Oral History Collection is available at: Click on “Browse the Collection Website” and appropriate icons to listen to audio recordings, read interview transcripts and see photographs from the collection.

Special Collections, located in Room 207 of Carrier Library, is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday-Thursday and by appointment by calling (540) 568-3612.

augusta free press
augusta free press