By Emma Speckman
Sept. 18, 2014. University archivist Pam Mitchem will release her new book chronicling the 115-year history of Appalachian State University Sept. 22 . Mitchem compiled hundreds of photos for “Appalachian State University,” which was printed as the newest edition to Arcadia Publishing’s “Campus History” series.
Photos in the book come mainly from the university’s own archive collections. These include photos taken by university staff photographers, records from student publications including the yearbook and the newspaper and president’s papers. Mitchem also included some donated materials in the book and she hopes that sales of the book will prompt current students and alums to send in photos and records from their time on campus to the university archives offices.
Sales of the book will go into the Elizabeth Brown Scoggins Endowment, which aims to support the university’s efforts to preserve its history through records and archives.
“This is an endowment that was given to us by a woman who is one of the founder’s granddaughters—D.D. Dougherty’s granddaughter,” Mitchem said. “She was a patron of the archives and very interested in preservation.”
Historical preservation is a very important objective for Mitchem, who holds two master’s degrees from Appalachian State and has been studying the university’s history since 1997. Her specialized interest in university archives began in 1999 when, as a graduate assistant in the archives of Belk Library, Mitchem was in charge of gathering photos and information from the archives for the university’s centennial celebration. It was then that she discovered her appreciation for the unique history of the university and the value of documents from the past.
“Appalachian has a very unique history. It started out as just a local school for mountain children, as Watauga Academy. Then it became a teacher’s college. It was thanks to pretty much to B.B. Doughtery… for getting the funding from the state to build a state-supported institution,” she recounted. “It was important—it really changed the area having the school here. Around 1900 the Boone area was very rural.”
This early part of the university’s history, she said, is very well documented. However, after a fire in 1966 the university lost many records.
“In 1966 the second administration building burned. Someone tossed some of them [records]out of the window so we have the president’s papers saved—I believe it was Dr. Plemmons…some of his papers have scorch marks on the edges,” she said. “Both the student publications offices, the yearbook and the newspaper office, were in that building and they lost things.”
“We have sort of a gap there,” she said. “We’re lucky the school’s history is fairly well documented, despite the 1966 fire.”
“We’re hoping that people might be willing to donate materials from the time that they were in school,” Mitchem said. “We don’t have as much student life materials as we would like—things like pictures and diaries, scrapbooks and all those great things. It’s particularly well documented on the institutional side. If we just had more of the student life stuff.”
Upon the book’s release, Mitchem said she hopes to host a book signing in the university bookstore over Homecoming weekend, Oct. 10-11, but as of now nothing is set in stone. The book will be sold in the university bookstore as well as several other shops around Boone.
For more information about the Appalachian State University archives and Mitchem’s work, visit http://www.collections.library.appstate.edu/archives.
For more information about Arcadia Press, visit www.arcadiapublishing.com
Check out photos from the book below. Photos courtesy of Arcadia Publishing.