ASA Special Collections Committee Response to Kentucky Flooding

This article appeared in the Volume 3, Issue 3 Winter 2022 issue of the Appalachian Curator. Click here to view a PDF of the full issue.

By Stewart Plein, Chair, ASA Special Collections Committee

Following the devastating flooding in Kentucky, the ASA Special Collections Committee extended assistance on a number of fronts, individually and institutionally, specifically concerning Appalshop in Whitesburg and Hindman Settlement School in Hindman. Two committee members have been engaged in weekly response phone calls coordinated by the Kentucky Arts Council with others from across Appalachia. Discussions on funding sources, volunteers, best practices and other recovery topics were an important part of this weekly discussion. Members of the committee, including a professor at UVA Wise, were on the ground assisting recovery in the early stages.

In response to this disaster the ASA Special Collections Committee gathered virtually to brainstorm and bounce around some ideas for ways and means to assist our colleagues in Kentucky.   The meeting was divided into three sections:1) Reports from the region, 2) Actions, and 3) Plans.


  • Jeremy A. Smith, the director of the Archives of Appalachia at East Tennessee State has been instrumental in coordinating ETSU’s response offering freezer storage for damaged archives. On Saturday July 30, less than two days after devastating floods came through eastern Kentucky, the Archives of Appalachia at ETSU were able to receive a small portion of the wet, flood-damaged photographs and papers from the Hindman Settlement School’s archives.  ETSU had available walk-in freezer space and was able to locate more.  Around 15 linear feet of materials were immediately frozen, and the Archives worked with Hindman staff to plan and initiate efforts to dry and clean the materials.  Archives have been bagged, boxed and frozen. ETSU has devised a plan for the papers and AV material.  Frozen materials will be thawed and handled a few at a time to be dried, cleaned and stored at ETSU.
  • Smith reported that books looked replaceable. Stewart Plein, curator, West Virginia and Regional History Center, West Virginia University special collections, is collecting books on Appalachia to replace those lost at Hindman. Phyllis Wilson Moore, a WVU donor of Appalachian literature, history, and writers, requested involvement.  Moore has won awards for her work supporting West Virginia and Appalachian writers and has continued to donate regularly to WVU’s West Virginia and Appalachian collections.  Moore had been to Hindman many times over the years and wanted to find a way to help.  Plans are to go through Moore’s donations, set aside duplicates, and gather those books together to donate to Hindman at a later date when they are ready to receive them.  There will also be many duplicates from gifts that WVU Libraries can offer, combined with duplicates from Moore’s collection, as well as duplicates from committee member libraries, this will make a great contribution towards reestablishing Hindman’s book collection.
  • Tim Binkley, director of special collections at Berea, noted that Appalshop reached out regarding space. There were valid concerns regarding the storage of materials that belonged to another institution. Liz Harper, Assistant Professor, Hunter Library, Western Carolina University, had drafted an MOU for just such circumstances and shared it with the group following the meeting.


As Appalshop and Hindman move through the salvage stage it will take time to know exactly where help will be needed. The following list provides possible actions that can be taken until needs are clarified.

Donate funds:

Recommended resources:

  • Media Preserve, Pittsburgh, PA. Cleans and digitizes flood damaged AV materials.
  • NEDCC grant funding and preservation and conservation needs


  • The Committee could write letters of support when both organizations apply for funding.
  • Extra Hollinger boxes could be donated to rehouse papers.

The Special Collections committee’s response will evolve as things move forward on the ground.  The efforts from the Kentucky Arts Council and the Special Collections Committee is ongoing.

At a later date, Smith hopes to provide an update on conservation work and what lies ahead in the cleaning and preservation of flood damaged materials.  Smith will present on these efforts at the Appalachian Studies Association Special Collections Committee panel in Athens, Ohio, 2023.

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