By Nathan Ham
Local historian Dr. Eric Plaag was honored by the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution with the NSDAR Historic Preservation Medal on Sunday, Feb. 25.
This medal, the highest award presented by the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution for Historic Preservation, was given to Dr. Plaag for his promotion and dedication to history in Boone and the High Country.
“I was completely overwhelmed and surprised when Mary (Moretz) first told me. We were at another event and she approached me and shared the news with me and it came as a complete shock,” Plaag said. “I’m deeply honored to receive this award.”
The Daniel Boone Chapter of the NSDAR nominated Dr. Plaag for this award.
“Eric has done so much for our area over and over again. This is not an award that a chapter gets to make every year or two. It’s rare that you have a person of this stature that you can nominate for this particular award so we’re just excited,” said Mary Moretz, the historic preservation committee chairperson.
Dr. Plaag came to Boone in 2011 and founded the Digital Watauga Project in 2014, a plethora of historical local images that he has been able to scan and process to keep as part of a historical reminder of how things used to be in the High Country and a reminder of past events that took place in the area. Digital Watauga works with the Watauga County Historical Society as well as the Watauga County Public Library to ensure the preservation of such important historical photographs.
He is also a member of the Board of Trustees of the Appalachian Theatre of the High Country and chairperson of the ATHC Archives and History Committee. Dr. Plaag has worked with the town of Boone on different occasions, including authoring a report on the Town of Boone Historic Resources Survey and leading a new survey of the Boone Cemetery that helped the cemetery receive some major improvements.
“Dr. Plaag came to a community and embraced its cultural heritage and history. He found value in the legacy of its people, stories and material culture. He then began a tenacious journey of preservation. I believe his work will ensure that generations from now, those seeking connections to their past, will have the resources to do so,” said Jill Privott, NSDAR Regent. “Dr. Plaag, we are humbled that you have adopted our community.”
A trio of distinguished guests spoke at the award ceremony praising Dr. Plaag’s effort in the community, including Dr. Bettie Bond, the President of the Watauga County Historical Society, Boone town manager John Ward and historian and author Dr. Charles Watkins.
“Whether you are aware of it or not, you are all beneficiaries of his (Dr. Plagg) coming here, his professionalism, his intellect, his passion. If you don’t believe it, just look around at some of the things that have happened because of him,” said Dr. Bond.
Dr. Bond continued on, pointing out just how impactful Digital Watauga has been.
“Eric is leading us with this project, connecting us to our past and helping us focus on what can be our shared future and what good can look like,” she said. “You could not have found a more deserving member of this community to receive this award.”
Dr. Watkins spoke briefly about some of the important things that Dr. Plaag has helped accomplish in Boone, not only the Digital Watauga project, but also the vast improvements on the grounds of the Boone Cemetery and the creation of a historic district in Boone.
“He is incredibly well educated to do the kind of volunteering he does. He is on the cutting edge now of the field of historic preservation,” Dr. Watkins said. “It is very fitting that Eric receive this award and I am privileged to be a part of the ceremony.”
The town manager also shared his feelings on the importance of Dr. Plaag in the community
“I’m starting my 18th year of working with historic preservation commissions and I can say without a doubt, Eric’s devotion and passion for this definitely stand out in those 18 years,” said Ward. “In a volunteer capacity, he has been directly responsible for helping transform the Boone community from one that states that it is supportive of the historic preservation into a community that actually takes active steps to ensure the historic preservation.”
Ward continued on, saying “the hours of research and documentation that Eric has contributed to the Boone community are invaluable and if it were not for his belief in the town of Boone, I don’t believe so many positive, proactive steps towards protecting the history would have been completed.”
The ceremony would not have been complete without a few words from the honoree. Dr. Plaag spoke briefly about how he felt history should be viewed before officially receiving his award.
“History isn’t supposed to be about justifying our importance in the context of dead relatives we never knew. It’s about understanding others and seeing their experiences honestly, clearly and purposefully rather than as some egocentric commentary on ourselves,” Dr. Plaag said.
Boone Mayor Rennie Brantz proclaimed Feb. 25, 2018 as “Dr. Eric Plaag Day.”
Dr. Plaag is the founder and principal consultant of Carolina Historical Consulting, LLC., and is also an educator, writer and photographer.
Proclamation Honoring Dr. Eric W. Plaag from the Town of Boone
WHEREAS, the Town of Boone, North Carolina is proud of its heritage including native American sojourners, pre-Revolutionary War hunters, explorers, cattle herders, and guides, to its early beginnings as Councill’s Store and then its establishment as Boone, named in honor of the iconic pioneer and leader Daniel Boone, to its incorporation in 1872 as a town and its charter as the County Seat of Watauga County, to the founding of Watauga Academy now Appalachian State University, to its growth as a major commercial, cultural and tourism center; and
WHEREAS, the Town of Boone not only values its past history but also treasures and honors those who help preserve its heritage,
THEREFORE we recognize Dr. Eric W. Plaag for his many volunteer hours, his leadership and scholarship, his role as the catalyst in helping the Town of Boone preserve our history with his work including:
- Supervisor of the preparation of the report establishing the Ginseng Marker;
- Supervisor of the report for the Local History Landmark Designation of the Boone Post Office;
- Co-author on the Local Historic Landmark Designation Report for the Frank A. Linney House and Low Office;
- Principal consultant on the Town of Boone Historic Resources Survey and author of the accompanying survey report;
- Leader of the new survey of the Boone Cemetery and coordinator with the Town Council and Manager to secure major improvements at the cemetery;
- Chairperson and mastermind of the Digital Watauga Project since its formation in 2014;
- Volunteer curator and exhibit designer of two exhibitions of the Digital Watauga collections at the Jones House in 2016 and 2017;
- Member of the Board of Trustees for the Appalachian Theatre of the High Country (ATHC) and chairperson of the ATCH Archives and History Committee; and
- Supervisor of the ATCH Oral History Project as part of the work with the Archives and History Committee.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, Dr. Rennie Brantz, Mayor of the Town of Boone, North Carolina, and on behalf of the Boone Town Council, do hereby proclaim February 25, 2018 as DR. ERIC W. PLAAG DAY, and urge all citizens to reaffirm their commitment to Historic Preservation.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the Town of Boone to be affixed this 25th day of February in the year two thousand and eighteen.
Rennie Brantz, Mayor