Preserving Family Archives in Letcher County

Written by appalarchive

During Letcher County’s 2017 Mountain Heritage Festival, Appalshop Archive invited local residents to bring family heritage items to the historic Dawahares Building in Whitesburg, KY for free digitization. Participants presented an array of photographic prints, color slides, family documents and news clippings for scanning, and 3-dimensional objects such as framed photos and an heirloom fiddle for photographing. Highlights included an early 20th century photo album documenting a Floyd County, Kentucky family and a collection of souvenir glass plate negatives.

Adam Ousley, holding fiddle brought in by John Haywood.

Letcher County resident John Haywood brought photographs and heirloom items from his family collection including a fiddle inherited from Adam Ousley, his grandmother Virginia’s first husband, who was killed in Normandy during World War II. Haywood, a musician and artist, still uses the fiddle and had it restored in 2014.


All of the event’s participants contributed images and their stories to a digital archive of Letcher County vernacular history that will be preserved, shared on a project website, and featured at Appalshop’s 2018 Seedtime Festival. The Archive will continue collecting contextual information from participant families, and will hold additional digitization events in 2017/18 throughout the county.

This project is made possible by the Appalshop P&E Fund and the NEH Common Heritage initiative, which supports community events that help illuminate and preserve the rich history held in personal collections — the photo albums, home movies, and family heirlooms that together tell the story of a community.

Featured image: Virginia Ousley (John Haywood’s grandmother) on right. From the family of John Haywood.





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