"We feel like we own the park,
because so many of our ancestors did,"
Sen. Lamar Alexander
TOWNSEND, Tenn. (WVLT) -- The new Joint Curatorial Collections Facility for the Great Smoky Mountains has been funded and building is expected to start within a few months.
Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell arrived Monday morning to announce that she'd secured the funds to build a structure that will house artifacts from the Smokies. Currently those artifacts are stored in buildings that aren't approved by National Park standards for physical security, or environmental controls to protect them from mold, insects and fire.
"It's really important that we not just have these artifacts but that we take care of them because we won't have them for generations to come if we don't," said Jewell.
Jewell said half the $4.3 million comes from the federal government and the other half comes from private funds.
"National Parks don't operate by themselves they operate as a community. Public-private partnerships used to be the margin of excellence now it's the margin of survival," said Jewell.
The National Park has nearly 800,000 artifacts and many will be moved to the new facility when it opens in the fall 2015.
"These are quilts of the walker sisters, Jim Thompson's photographs, and the chair FDR sat in when he dedicated the park, home of the largest collection of stills in the United States," said Senator Lamar Alexander. "A home for the things that were in the homes of the people of the park. It's a way to celebrate the way of life that was here and continues to be in this region."
Through the completion of this new regional center, the National Park Service (NPS) will be able to properly care for over 144,000 artifacts, 220,000 archival records, and 275 linear feet of library materials documenting the history of Great Smoky Mountains National Park and four other NPS areas in East Tennessee including Andrew Johnson National Historic Site, Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area, Cumberland Gap National Historical Park, and Obed Wild and Scenic River. Consolidating the collections materials will both ensure the protection for the heirlooms entrusted to the National Park Service and also allow for a single Museum Curator to oversee all the collections.
The Great Smoky Mountains Heritage center donated the land for the new building.