Written by Ethiel Garlington
Nestled in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains in East Tennessee, there is a special region where almost every small town finds itself beautifully positioned on a river, lake, or other body of water. The uniqueness of this region is marked by the most visited National Park in the country, a "Secret City" where the atomic bomb was developed, the first court ordered integrated school in the south, and the childhood home of best-selling author Cormac McCarthy.
One of the most important facets of my position as a Partner in the Field for East Tennessee is creating a network of like-minded individuals who can learn from Knox Heritage, each other, and national counterparts. Though I just began in November 2008, I've quickly learned the power of collaboration. There are myriad individuals and organizations interested in preserving different facets of history: historical societies, genealogical societies – even cemetery associations. But because many of these groups thrive in a region where family roots are still strong, they are interested mostly in personal history – they are driven to save the stories of their people. For most of these groups, the preservation of the historic built environment is not their main goal.
In some cases, people may not initially see their connection to the preservation of historic structures. By linking the personal histories with the existing tangible structures, we're able to strengthen the link to the past, and in turn, strengthen the argument for historic preservation. While historical markers on the side of highways are useful, they can never compare to the actual historic landmark. By linking groups that share common interests, collaborating with the historical associations and listening to the various goals of the cemetery enthusiasts and the genealogical societies, the efforts to preserve the built environment are strengthened many times over.
Here's an example: in February, the newly founded East Tennessee Preservation Alliance (ETPA) helped the Oak Ridge Heritage and Preservation Association (ORHPA) host a fundraiser – with a twist. By combining forces with renowned authors Jon Jefferson and Dr. William Bass, who with HarperCollins Publishing were releasing the fourth novel in their "Body Farm" series, local historic preservationists were able to tap into a new audience – the fans of the Body Farm. Bones of Betrayal, the latest tome from Jefferson Bass, is set in Manhattan Project-era Oak Ridge, Tennessee.
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