Interior Department Will Finish Funding For Museum Facility At Great Smoky Mountains National Park

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An artist's rendering of the planned curatorial facility. NPS image.

Nearly 1 million records and artifacts relating to Great Smoky Mountains National Park will soon have a new home, as the Interior Department has OKed funds to complete a $4.3 million Joint Curatorial Collections Facility, according to a U.S. senator.

That facility, to be built on park land near Townsend, Tennessee, will also serve as a curatorial facility for materials from Andrew Johnson National Historic Site, Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area, Cumberland Gap National Historic Park and Obed Wild and Scenic River.

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, who announced late last week that Interior would provide $2 million on top of $2.3 million in private donations for the facility, said construction could begin this summer.

“This is great news for everyone who loves the Great Smoky Mountains, especially because the new center will honor families who once lived in the park,” the Tennessee Republican said. “This was made possible only because of years of effort by dedicated Park Service employees and by the generosity of friends of the Smokies.”

However, park officials are still awaiting official word from headquarters in Washington, D.C., that the project has gained final approval.

“Our process has not yet caught up to where he’s at. We’re still optimistic that all these funding sources seem to be coming together," Great Smoky spokeswoman Dana Soehn said Monday.

"We don’t want to jump the gun because it hasn’t happened," she added. "All those pieces are coming together, but we do not yet have that timeline mapped out."

The Joint Curatorial Collections Facility will preserve 422,000 historical artifacts and 450,000 archival records, including land records, oral histories, historic photos and park operating records, and items such as clothing, vintage weapons, logging-era equipment, farm tools and other possessions from the individuals and families living on the farmsteads of the Southern Appalachians in pre-park days. The archival collections will also include President Andrew Johnson’s presidential papers.

The parks whose archives will be moved into this new facility do not have buildings that meet National Park Service standards for physical security, or environmental controls to protect artifacts from mold, insects, and fire.