PRESERVE WV AMERICORPS MEETS WITH DR. EMORY KEMP - ESTEEMED WEST VIRGINIA UNIVERSITY PROFESSOR EMERITUS AND PAWV CO-FOUNDER
Written by Samuel Richardson, Preserve WV AmeriCorps member serving at the West Virginia & Regional History Center (Samuel (left) pictured above with Dr. Emory Kemp (right))
It was no surprise that I was going to face some serious challenges in my Year of Service with AmeriCorps. I would be examining and arranging the life’s work of Dr. Emory Kemp, with the goal of making his 300 box collection of blueprints, maps, restoration project reports, structural analysis papers, drawings, correspondence, and much more accessible to patrons of the West Virginia and Regional History Center (WVRHC). Public History, as an academic field, was foreign territory for me. However, as a graduate from the Public Administration program at West Virginia University, I was prepared to tackle any project that served the public’s interest. The transdisciplinary shift was a challenge, but complimented my “Clifton Strength’s Finder” examination which discovered my strength in adaptability.
Transdisciplinary shifts into public history are not unheard of, as according to Dr. Kemp, the structural mechanics PhD, was moved from civil engineering to the History Department at West Virginia University. Despite resistance in his early educational career to studying history as an academic discipline, he choose to remain in engineering. His resistance however, was no match for the orders of West Virginia University President James G. Harlow, who would implore Dr. Kemp lead the newly founded Institute for the History of Technology and Industrial Archaeology in the Department of History, not engineering.
This was one of the many anecdotes that developed in the Monday afternoon meeting with the retired academic stalwart. Perhaps, in the process of officially retiring, as he promises his newest developing book on the Big Sandy River will be his last.
The materials in the collection were assembled to support projects over Dr. Kemp’s 50 year career. The materials were arranged in a manner with no particular emphasis on a preserved original order. Dr. Kemp stated that he expected the professional expertise of the faculty and staff at the WVRHC to arrange the materials in a fashion that would make his work most accessible to researchers.
Kemp also agreed with the proposed series arrangement, where WVRHC faculty member, Jane LaBarbara, and I hope to divide the collection into three major series, Kemp’s Personal Library, Publications by Kemp, and finally, “Subject Files” or “Research Projects.”
In hopes of understanding which areas of the large collection are appropriate to highlight and exhibit, Dr. Kemp will provide Jane and I with a list of 35 projects that were of noteworthy accomplishment and could be listed as potential engineering breakthroughs. Some of which, were his role in the construction of the Sydney Opera House, and saving the Baltimore Gas and Electric Company potentially millions of dollars, by engineering a way for them to integrate new equipment without completely destroying an older building. Kemp hopes to sit down with LaBarbara and me to discuss each of the projects in further detail.
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