The Collection:
Southern Highland Craft Guild

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Institution Overview

From the 1890s to the 1920s, the southern Appalachian region witnessed a revival in the production and sale of handmade items such as woven coverlets, hand hewn furniture, cornhusk dolls, and carved animals. Schools teaching traditional crafts and selling newly made products sprung up throughout rural Tennessee, Kentucky, and North Carolina. In 1929 many of these craft revival administrators came together around the concept of an umbrella organization that would further the revival in handmade objects. In 1930, the Southern Mountain Handicraft Guild, later the Southern Highland Handicraft Guild (and now the Southern Highland Craft Guild) was officially chartered.   With a mission to both educate and market, the Guild has since grown to become one of the strongest craft organizations in the country. Second in age only to the Boston Society of Arts and Crafts, the Guild now represents over 900 craftspeople in 293 counties of 9 southeastern states, known as the Southern Highlands. The Guild's initial formation was rooted in western North Carolina and since the 1950s has been headquartered in Asheville. Information on the craft fairs, special events, exhibitions, shops, and membership can be found on the Southern Highland Craft Guild's website.

Collection Overview

The Southern Highland Craft Guild Collections consist of library, archives, and a permanent collection of art objects and artifacts.  All of the collections are currently housed in the organizations’ headquarters in the Folk Art Center that is located on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Asheville. The Folk Art Center is owned and maintained by the National Park Service and is open to the public.

Robert W. Gray Library Collection
The mission of the Robert W. Gray Library is to collect, preserve, and make available for research materials concerning the appreciation and knowledge of traditional and contemporary crafts, with particular emphasis on the craft heritage of the southern Appalachian region. Library materials relate to craft work from around the world and in all media with historical background as well as "how-to" information. There are also materials on regional history and development.  The collection contains over 7,000 books and exhibition catalogs, 45 current periodical titles as well as many periodicals no longer in print. A recent addition is an audio-visual area where visitors may choose from over 100 craft-related videos.  The collection catalog is available on the library's computer.  While the resources do not circulate, the materials are available for use on site. A photocopy machine and scanner are readily available for patron use.  A professional librarian is available for reference assistance.  The library is open whenever the Folk Art Center is open.

Materials selected from the library collection for this project include mostly rare or ephemeral publications relating directly to the Craft Revival period such as the exhibition Catalogue of Mountain Handicrafts.

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Permanent Collection
The permanent collection consists of more than 3,200 craft objects, with a small collection of tools and artifacts.  The collection’s focus is Appalachian craft, but includes a diverse range of forms and formats dating from the mid 1800s to the present.  Most of the collection is in storage: however, a permanent collection exhibit of 200 items ensures that representative portions of the collection are on display at all times. 

Materials from the Guild's permanent collection selected for this project include items made in western North Carolina prior to 1945 and thus reflect the type of crafts being produced in the region during the Craft Revival period.

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Archival Collections
The archival collections total close to 300 linear feet and include the records of the Guild since its inception in 1930, as well as numerous other collections of personal papers, organizational records, and a substantial vertical file.  The archives are open to the public via appointment.  A photocopy machine and scanner are readily available for patron use. 

Materials selected for this project came from several archival collections as outlined below.

Collection Descriptions

Southern Highland Craft Guild Records.  Annual Meeting Records, 1929-1996.
This series provides the most comprehensive documentation of the Guild’s annual membership meetings.  Files include some or all of the following: pre-meeting mailings to membership, meeting agendas, and official meeting minutes including committee reports and full text of program presentations.  Materials selected for this project include a complete set of minutes from 1929 through 1945.

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Southern Highland Craft Guild Records.  Craft Education Program Files, 1943-1951, 1976.
The Southern Highland Handicraft Guild and a companion organization, the Southern Highlanders, received two grants from the General Education Board (founded by John D. Rockefeller) during the 1940s.  In 1944, a $6,000 grant was awarded for an exploratory study of craft activities, resources, and needs of the Southern Highlands area.  As a result of this study, a second grant of $45,000 was awarded toward the support of a three-year program of craft education administered through an executive office.

The Craft Education Program series contains administrative correspondence between members of the Southern Highlanders, the Southern Highland Handicraft Guild and staff at the General Education Board.  There is also considerable routine correspondence between staff and individual craft artists about the logistics of creating and marketing crafts.   Also included are the research files and reports of Craft Education Program director Marion Heard’s 1945 “Exploratory Study of Craft Education in the Southern Highlands.”  The study was based on numerous interviews with individual craft workers, business owners, and school administrators throughout the southern Appalachian region.  This study resulted in a set of recommendations based on the needs of crafters in the area for more education (mostly in the form of workshops) which was funded by the General Education Board as the Craft Education Program.

Although the survey encompassed the southern Appalachian region, materials included here have been limited to the survey forms for craft artists, schools, and production centers located in western North Carolina.  Data collected on the survey forms includes length of time doing craft, how craft was learned, impact on family income, how many employees, further equipment or educational needs, and so on.  Also included is the final draft of the Heard report that was based in large part upon the survey responses. 

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Southern Highland Craft Guild Records.  Financial Records, 1931-1994, n.d. 
This series documents the financial activities of the non-profit Guild and its various shops.  Included are files recording the disbursements to individual craft artists for items sold in the shops as well as more general financial documents such as audits and annual budgets.  Also included are extensive donor files maintained for various major fundraising campaigns such as the construction of the Folk Art Center.

Materials selected for this project largely pertain to the Allanstand Cottage Industries, the craft shop founded by Frances Goodrich in 1896 in Madison County, North Carolina.  The shop later moved to Asheville and, in 1931, the business was legally transferred to the Southern Mountain Handicraft Guild.  Materials selected include product photographs, promotional brochures, and correspondence.

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Southern Highland Craft Guild Records.  Membership Records, 1930s-1990s. 
This series includes files generated by Guild committees related to member activities, as well as administrative member files maintained by Guild staff.  The member files contain a wide variety of materials pertaining to individual craft artists or production centers.  These materials can include news clippings, biographical sketches, interviews, member surveys, photographs, and product brochures.

Materials for this project were largely selected from the member files for individuals and production centers based in western North Carolina.  While items cover a range of material types, of particular note are the transcripts of interviews done in the 1960s by Edward Dupuy and Clifford Hotchkiss.  These interviews were used for the publication of the book Artisans of the Appalachians published in 1967.

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Southern Highland Craft Guild Records.  Photographic Media, ca. 1940s-1990s.
This series includes prints, slides, and negatives documenting Guild events, Board meetings, various craft artists and craft objects, and Guild shops.  Materials selected for this project are largely photographs of individual craft artists based in western North Carolina. 

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Southern Highland Craft Guild Records.  Publications and Publicity Series, 1936-1994, n.d.
This series includes books and booklets published by the Guild for the general public; newsletters published for Guild membership and staff; flyers, leaflets, brochures promoting various Guild events, activities, exhibits, shops; and articles and news clippings about or making mention of the Guild events or related institutions.  Materials selected for this project are largely photographs of individual craft artists living and working in western North Carolina during the Craft Revival period.

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Frances L. Goodrich Papers, 1892-1980s, n.d.
Frances Louisa Goodrich came to western North Carolina in 1892 as a Presbyterian missionary.  Through her mission work with local communities, Goodrich launched a small business venture named Allanstand Cottage Industries which marketed handmade goods from the western North Carolina mountains to buyers in other regions and thus provided needed income to poor mountain families. Goodrich was one of the founding members of the Southern Mountain Handicraft Guild. Her Allanstand shop was eventually transferred to the Guild and is the oldest running craft shop in the nation.  Goodrich also donated her personal collection of craft objects to the Guild which formed the basis of the Guild’s permanent collection.  The Goodrich papers consist of correspondence, biographical information, family papers, early records for Allanstand Cottage Industries, photographs, and her extensive research on traditional weaving patterns that includes weaving drafts, watercolor draw-downs, swatches, photographs, and historical names.

Materials selected for this project include photographs documenting the mission community where the Allanstand shop was founded, photographs and promotional literature related to the handcrafts sold through Allanstand Cottage Industries, articles written by and about Goodrich, as well as some of her research on traditional weaving.

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Doris Ulmann Photographs, ca. 1928-1934.
In the late 1920s established portrait photographer Doris Ulmann turned her lens on the southern Appalachian region.  Many of her portraits of Appalachian folk and their handmade crafts were published in Allen Eaton's Handicrafts of the Southern Highlands.  Many of Ulmann's prints relating to the emerging Appalachian craft revival circulated with the 1933 Exhibition of Mountain Handicrafts and were subsequently given to the Guild. Included in this collection are also several photographs by John Jacob Niles, a folksinger and folk song collector who accompanied Ulmann on many of her photographic trips.

Images reproduced in this project include craft organizers, artists, and craft objects produced in western North Carolina.

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Records of the Southern Highlanders, Inc., 1934-1954.  
The Southern Highlanders was an organization created by Tennessee Valley Authority as a marketing outlet for craft artists in the Tennessee Valley region.  Conceptualization and creation of this organization was done in collaboration with the newly formed Southern Highland Handicraft Guild.  The mission of the Southern Highlanders was to focus on marketing of craft products while the Guild focused on educational aspects (training, exhibitions, etc.).  The Southern Highlanders managed at least 2 retail outlets, one in Norris Dam, Tenn., and the other in Rockefeller Center (New York City).  For many years members of both organizations advocated a merger, but the federal government did not relent until 1951.  The Southern Highlanders were virtually subsumed by the Southern Highland Handicraft Guild in 1952.

The records in this collection include Board files from the 1930s-1950; Board and committee minutes, 1935-1950; audit reports, 1940-1948; publications; publicity; photographs of shops; lists of producers and stockholders; and reports related to the merger in 1951-1952.  Materials selected for this project include informational brochures; product catalogs; and lists of stockholders and producers.

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