A New Year and Archives 101

August 21, 2017 wasn’t just the coolest event I’ve witnessed (the total solar eclipse); it was also the first day of the fall semester here at Georgia College.

The total eclipse, as seen from Greenwood, SC.

It brought an end to a very busy summer for Special Collections. Caroline Fry, our summer intern, has now left us, but we’ve added two new service learning fellows and one new graduate assistant. You’ll continue to see Miranda Campbell around these parts, but now we have Brendan Starr, Shayla Burnett, and Catherine James with us as well. As they write posts, we’ll introduce them properly.

Some of our summer adventures made it into blog posts or onto our Facebook page, but one that has not until now is the Archives 101 class I co-taught on August 5th. Special Collection sponsored the Society of Georgia Archives’ event, that was held at the Ina Dillard Russell Library at Georgia College, which provided basic archives training to librarians, historians, and volunteers with historical and genealogical organizations who were responsible for archival materials. We welcomed 20 attendees to the Ina Dillard Russell Library to talk through acquisitions, processing, preservation, access, and outreach — yes, in one day! Continue reading “A New Year and Archives 101”


See you later, Rev! (Maybe?)

Caroline Fry is working in Special Collections for the next three weeks as part of a for-credit internship through Georgia College. She is a junior majoring in Management Information Systems.

Although Special Collections is for the most part practically perfect in every way, mistakes still manage to occur every now and then — and sometimes they’re beyond our control. Recently we received several boxes of papers from Central State Hospital that belonged to Payton B. Cook, a clinical chaplain at the hospital from the 1960s-1990s who passed away in 1998 (you can read more about him here). Yesterday, we got a call saying that the Payton B. Cook papers that we acquired from the Central State Local Redevelopment Authority needed to be returned because we do not have the proper clearance to keep it at Georgia College. It turns out that when Mike Couch, the executive director of the Central State Local Redevelopment Authority, notified and gave us the papers, he thought that we had already signed an agreement with the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities giving us clearance to have the contents. On our end, we assumed that he had already cleared it with the department before notifying us about the collection. Miscommunication is universal. In summary, the state didn’t technically give the papers to us, so we have to send them back and see if we get permission to acquire them again.

To put this situation into technical terms, Special Collections was not certified for chain of custody to hold Rev. Cook’s papers. We lacked legal custody of the collection and have to return it back to the Central State Hospital Museum while we wait for clearance to repossess the items. Continue reading “See you later, Rev! (Maybe?)”

The Tale of the Lost Marriage Certificate

In Special Collections, we’re used to unusual things popping up. It’s the very nature of a special collection. Recently, we received a call from Mike Couch at the Central State Hospital Local Redevelopment Authority because he had some papers in his office that he thought would be best placed with us. Construction workers, planning to demolish a building at Central State, decided these papers might be important, so they decided to hand them off to Mike. It turns out those were Payton B. Cook’s papers. Rev. Cook’s name is familiar to newer residents of Milledgeville mostly because his name is on a building on Vinson Road. However, longtime residents will recall Rev. Cook as a pillar of the community, whose accomplishments were recognized by the Georgia General Assembly upon his death in 1998.

Rev. Cook was a clinical chaplain at Central State Hospital in the 1960s through the 1990s. He was an African-American who helped to integrate the hospital’s administration, and while that is certainly important, what I’ve learned about Rev. Cook through inventorying his papers is just how much he meant to Milledgeville and Baldwin County as a true public servant. He served on numerous boards for the hospital, the local community, and the state, and he traveled the southeast to encourage students studying to become clinical chaplains and preach in pulpits large and small (usually Baptist and Methodist). Business leaders wrote letters to him asking for advice, and occasionally, the area elected officials reached out to him as well. There were also notes from his young daughter, reminding him to run errands for her while she was at school.

Rev. Cook had a very busy schedule, and perhaps that explains what we ran across today while inventorying his collection — an original marriage license from Peach County, Georgia, from 1970. Rev. Cook was the officiant, and he had completely filled out the form, but it had never been mailed. I thought at first he had handwritten a copy, but the form in my hands clearly said “county original.” My next thought was that Rev. Cook had likely misplaced this copy, yet mailed a second one. I realized I had better call Peach County Probate Court to be certain. Continue reading “The Tale of the Lost Marriage Certificate”


What do you get when you cross an uncensored and sexually exploitative art show put on by GCSU’s Art Department with a cacophony of performance reactions and concerns?

You get “Mexotica.”

In 2004, an art show put on by performance artist and writer Guillermo Gomez-Pena and a number of volunteers, in conjunction with the school’s Art Department, was held in Russell Auditorium. The reactions erupted discussion that traverses the entire spectrum.

Gomez-Pena works in a number of artistic mediums exploring cross-cultural issues, immigration, and the politics of language. His mixing and blending of genres and art forms, of truth and fiction, seeks to create a “total experience” for the viewer/reader. He is the creator of La Pocha Nostra–an online collaborative art laboratory for performance artists to link up and connect with other rebel artists. Its main function is to destroy borders separating people by race, gender, and other cultural differences. La Pocha Nostra’s mission statement is “to provide a base for a loose network and forum of rebel artists from various disciplines, generations, and ethnic backgrounds.” The term is meant to represent Mexican empowerment and to praise abnormality and indecency. Click on this interview for Guillermo’s detailed explanation of the where the name originates from.

The school’s Colonnade featured several articles of audience reaction following the performance. President Dorothy P. Leland, who was newly appointed president at the time, is quoted in the articles. Mexotica was the first visual arts performance she attended at GCSU, and what a way to acclimate her to the fine arts within the university. Gomez-Pena allowed students the freedom to wear what they wanted to wear and to perform what they wanted to perform and I think that’s one of the most important factors that went in to all of this. Performance is about trusting other artists. One student told The Colonnade that she felt like she was in the red light district; others felt it was fuel to confront issues regarding sexual exploitation. Continue reading “Mexotic-huh?”

April Showers bring May…Emergency Preparedness?

Severe weather across Central Georgia has caused quite a scare in 2017. As I literally write this during a tornado watch, I’m also reminded of the 55 storms we’ve had across Georgia this year – making us more dangerous than even Oklahoma. You may be asking what this has has to do with archives. Well, as we head out of April and in to May, archives across the nation celebrate May Day on May 1st, a day dedicated to the protection of archival collections.

The May Day website cites the Heritage Health Index, a report by the Institute of Museum and Library Services that addresses the “conditions and preservation needs of our nation’s collections” (HHI), which states that even after disasters as destructive as Hurricanes Katrina and Rita struck the Gulf Coast, very few institutions had actual disaster plans that were up to date (MayDay). Every year on May 1st, archivists and cultural heritage professionals attempt to change that.


Georgia College Special Collections will be celebrating May Day by conducting a walk-through of our own collections keeping an eye out for unboxed material and boxes and other materials that are stored on the floor. We’ll be spending the day creating a plan for boxing materials that are currently loose, and moving items stored on the floor up on to shelves in our stacks. Fixing these problems will help our archive be more prepared for natural disasters and man-made disasters that could befall Georgia College. By making sure everything has a home on a shelf, we can lessen the possibility of water damage, smoke damage, or fire damage affecting our collections.

While we care for our own collections, what about your own at home? As we at the archives check our level of disaster preparedness, it might be time to play along at home to check your own precious family photos and documents and to create an emergency plan for your own items. The Georgia State Archives in Morrow, Georgia has created a checklist of items that are essential disaster records, or those records that should be kept with you in the event of an emergency, as well as how to back up these items. Other sources like the Northeast Document Preservation Center cover photo preservation and emergency salvaging of documents like wet photographs. In this post, we’ll cover the basics so that you too can have an emergency preparedness plan for your documents and photographs. Continue reading “April Showers bring May…Emergency Preparedness?”

Moral Turpitude

In 1972, Flannery O’Connor’s The Complete Stories won the National Book Award winning over John Updike, E.L. Doctorow, Joyce Carol Oates and Walker Percy, just to name a few. Eight years after her 1964 death, O’Connor moved notches up in American letters by posthumously winning the National Book Award as her writing progressively secured itself among, and surpassed, much of the writing she studied at Iowa just after World War II. At Iowa, O’Connor wrote a graduate paper on William Faulkner in her MFA program. She studied and read Eudora Welty, Katherine Anne Porter, Caroline Gordon, James Joyce, Gustave Flaubert, Edgar Allan Poe and Faulkner, just to name a few. Many writers influenced hers. One of O’Connor’s most recognizable fictional characters from her novel Wise Blood begins with Hazel Motes returning from WWII, and he buys a blue suit, changing from his Army fatigues. Then in 1988 amidst The Cold War, Pete Dexter is awarded the National Book Award for Paris Trout. O’Connor had been passed twenty-four years, by then.  

Despite the years, O’Connor and Dexter have two things very much in common besides both being awarded one of America’s most prestigious writing awards besides the Pulitzer. 

For one, O’Connor and Dexter have in common the streets, squares, people and their stories that echo in Milledgeville. During separate decades, O’Connor and Dexter inhabited the streets of Milledgeville as Dexter lived in Milledgeville for a time before Paris Trout was published.

The more specific streets are Wayne, Hancock, Jefferson, and Wilkinson. On Wayne, Marion Wesley Stembridge owned a dry goods store. Wayne is where Mary Flannery O’Connor’s grandfather, Peter James Cline, had also owned a dry goods store. At Hancock and Jefferson, O’Connor attended weekly mass at Sacred Heart Catholic Church. At the corner of Hancock and Wilkinson, O’Connor’s mail was postmarked Milledgeville where, during The Depression, her aunt Katie L. Cline was a money order clerk, and O’Connor’s uncle Hugh T. Cline had been Postmaster. Diagonal the once post office turned Visitor’s Center, across the convergence of Wilkinson and Hancock, O’Connor and her mother often ate lunch. A story above the restaurant in the building that no longer stands, Pete Bivins once had a law office in the Sanford building in May of 1953. On Hancock above the Campus Theatre, Marion Ennis also had a law office in May of 1953.  

2017 view of the stairs leading to the offices above the Campus Theatre where Marion Ennis’s office was in May 1953. 

For two, O’Connor and Dexter have in common Marion Wesley Stembridge. On 2 May 1953, O’Connor hadn’t been long returned from Iowa, New York, and Connecticut. Later, Dexter will hear about the infamous 1953 Saturday and base the eponymous fictional character Paris Trout of the National Book Award winning novel Paris Trout on Marion Wesley Stembridge.

Maybe a sliver of a silver lining can be seen. In a way, the story of Stembridge and Emma and the Cooper family and, subsequently, Pete Bivins and Marion Ennis and all others sadly involved in the story will win the National Book Award twice–once in 1972 then again in 1988.


O’Connor’s first draft of “The Partridge Festival” was first published in The Critic in 1961 and collected in the body of work that comprises The Complete Stories. “The Partridge Festival” was once a draft and then eight more drafts as the nonfictional Marion Wesley Stembridge is first named Mr. Sparrow then ultimately Singleton. The first draft is described; “Dr. George Gordon de Lacey comes to Pittsville from the university, takes a motel room to write about Mr. Sparrow’s murdering three prominent businessmen and then killing himself. [de Lacey] visits his spinster aunts, Minnie and Elizabeth de Lacey” (Driggers & Dunn p. 119).

O’Connor added a businessman.   

They call it Milledgeville; O’Connor fictionally called it Pittsville in an early draft of “The Partridge Festival”, and fictionally, Dexter told the story his way, telling Emma’s story, calling her Rosie

Continue reading “Moral Turpitude”

Guards! Guards!

If you got the reference in my title as a Pratchett fan, you may be expecting dragons and the Night Watch. Not quite. This story started with the search for a cornerstone. During the process of putting together items for the upcoming Russell Library exhibition on Russell Auditorium, I went back to the stacks to search for the mythical Russell Auditorium Cornerstone. Little did I know that I should not be looking for a physical cornerstone but rather a box filled with items from the cornerstone time capsule discovered by Dr. Bob Wilson and unearthed by the Physical Plant staff in October 1996. To hear the rest of the story of the cornerstone, come visit the Special Collections exhibit on the second floor of the Russell Library.

In the search for this so-called stone, I stumbled upon a box with a brick — yes, a literal brick — labelled as coming from the Prison Courtyard during renovations during 2005-2006. Since the box label stated Dr. Bob to be the donor, I inevitably sought him out to ask him. Turns out that this little brick is part of a much larger story encompassing the slice of Milledgeville history that is the penitentiary.

Kemp House Brick
The infamous brick

As has been talked about on this blog before (our first post in fact!), the penitentiary began accepting prisoners in 1817 and existed well into the 1880s. After being engulfed in flames in 1864, supposedly by the prisoners who were let out in the hopes that they would fight to defend their city from the incoming Union General — William Sherman. To no one’s surprise, the prisoners didn’t, and the penitentiary was rebuilt to accomodate even more prisoners until the 1880s, dampened by the convict lease system instituted in 1868 and the establishment of a state prison farm with state prison warden two miles west of Milledgeville in 1897. So the story goes that the land appropriated to the prison became the land of G.N. & I.C. leading the students to sit among the spirits of the state prisoners, even leading to ghost stories of prisoners spirits shaking the green shutters of the Bell Hall Annex (Hair). Continue reading “Guards! Guards!”