Visit from Heather South of the Western Regional Archives in Asheville

Heather South at the WRA Opening

At right- Western Regional Archivist, Heather South (center) with Government Records Section Head, Becky McGee-Lankford (left) and State Archivist Sarah Koonts (right) at the opening of the Western Regional Archives.

If you missed the July meeting of AHGS, you missed a doozy. Heather South of the Western Regional Archives spoke about her job and the importance of proper storage and archiving techniques. Sounds dry as dust, right?

Absolutely the opposite. Heather is an enthusiastic (and fun!) speaker who gives technical information in a way even I can understand it. She says- as she holds up a giant 10″ bug- “People remember more with visuals. You’ll more easily remember what I say about pest prevention when you remember the lady with the bug.” When talking about the proper handling of documents or museum artifacts she wears a huge pair of Mickey Mouse gloves.

But, don’t let the silliness fool you. She gave us tons of practical information in her presentation. Like: People store things in boxes everywhere, in barns, basements and storage units. And tiny bugs love to make nests inside the corrugated cardboard of the boxes! So, as a rule, she isolates donations and re-boxes everything into clean, new cartons for storage at the archives.

And: Get your photos out of those magic magnetic photo albums (with the clear plastic sheet over the adhesive cardboard.) They aren’t acid-free and will slowly kill your photos instead of preserving them. Smell a photo album before you buy it for a “plastic-y” odor. If it has that beach ball smell, don’t buy it. The smell means the plastic is giving off gasses that will react with your photos. Heather claims she is “on security camera tapes all over the Carolinas smelling photo albums.”

And: Manilla folders and standard copy paper are generally “neutral” and therefore, safe for storing prints and documents.

We originally met Heather at a Museums in Partnership (MIP) meeting in Ashe County hosted by Ramona Renfroe and the Museum of Ashe County History. MIP is the brain child of Jill Jones, who was Director of the Swannanoa Valley Museum for ten years and is now Director of Marketing & Communications at Blue Ridge National Heritage Area. MIP has been a valuable resource for us, giving us access to a network of area museum professionals for information and advice. Thanks, Ramona and Jill for inviting AHGS to the group!

And THANKS HEATHER, for a fun and informative presentation. Please plan to come back to Alleghany soon!

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