Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Thomas D. Clark, December 10, 2002

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:03 - Early childhood interest in collecting / Collecting for the University of Kentucky

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Partial Transcript: Okay.

Segment Synopsis: Clark reminisces on his early childhood experiences, especially concerning his mother's love of collecting. He talks about some of the famous collectors who influenced him. Clark talks about getting the opportunity to become a part time collector while still being a professor at the University of Kentucky.

Keywords: American Indians; Civil War; Collection; Collectors; Dr. Frank McVey; Gold mines; Hiring; Mississippi; Mothers; Native Americans; Salary

Subjects: Academic libraries.; College teachers--Salaries, etc.; Families.; Teachers--Salaries, etc.; Universities and colleges--Employees; Universities and colleges--Professional staff; University and colleges--Research.; University towns; Youth.

00:05:55 - State records

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Partial Transcript: Um, I want to go to the night I believe when you were called to Frankfort to get the archives.

Segment Synopsis: Clark recalls the time he was in charge of storing multiple truckloads of state and court records and documents within the basement of Patterson Hall and then moving the documents and records out of the building during a fire.

Keywords: Archives; Court; Document transfer; Fires; Frankfort (Ky.); Invitation; Library; Records; State archives; State documents; Storage; University

Subjects: Academic libraries.; Universities and colleges--Departments; Universities and colleges--Public relations; University and colleges--Research.

00:11:53 - Stamp stealing

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Partial Transcript: At, at one point too, didn't you catch some WPA workers--

Segment Synopsis: Clark talks about the time he caught WPA workers stealing stamps and documents which led to the termination of the state librarian.

Keywords: Job loss; Theft; WPA workers; Works Progress Administration (WPA)

Subjects: Academic libraries.; Universities and colleges--Employees; Universities and colleges--Professional staff; Universities and colleges--Security measures; University and colleges--Research.

00:12:36 - Documents saved from a fire

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Partial Transcript: The records that you initially saved, those four truckloads--

Segment Synopsis: Clark talks about the documents he saved from the fire at Patterson Hall and how he saved them.

Keywords: Fires; State records

Subjects: Academic libraries.; College buildings.; Universities and colleges--Employees; Universities and colleges--Safety measures.; University of Kentucky

00:13:07 - Collecting county store records

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Partial Transcript: You, you know, looking at where you collected--

Segment Synopsis: Clark talks about his experience collecting country store records in Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Tennessee, and South Carolina between 1942 and 1943. The records were used in two of his books "Pills, Petticoats, and Plows" and "Southern Country." Clark tells us how he obtained records from a man named Brown in Alabama but the man died before he could get them so Brown’s sister gave it to him on one condition: that Clark left town before a train with a corpse arrived. A grant was filed in order to obtain funding for Clark's research and he showed Dr. David Stevens his record library. Clark was asked if he was one of the first historians to go around finding primary sources like the state records. He also accounts how was going to come out with a trilogy on different country lifestyle aspects. Clark tells a story about a politician who traveled through Knott County, Kentucky on a mule, and his own experience riding a mule in Elliott County, Kentucky in the rain.

Keywords: Books; Brown records; Campaign platforms; Catalogs; Collections; Competition; Corpses; Cotton gins; Country (Rural); Dinners; Fairfield County (S.C.); Fertilizer business; Freight trains; Gathering; General stores; Grants; Historians; Lakes; Ledgers; Letters; Library; Merchants; Mule riding; Mules; Pioneers; Pistol in bed; Primary sources; Publications; Publishing; Records; Retirement; Revenue agents; Rockefeller organization; Rocky roads; Routes; Series; Slave caddy; Southern travel; Stores; Study; Trains; Transporting records; Travel; Villages; Volunteers

Subjects: Academic libraries.; Account books.; Archives.; Business records.; College publications; Eastern Kentucky University; Financial statements.

00:28:37 - Filson Club and Kentucky Historical Society

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Partial Transcript: Um, one of the things that I, I, I noticed looking in your papers is your close relationship with, um, Otto Rothert.

Segment Synopsis: Clark describes Otto Rothert, who was the editor of the Filson Club Historical Quarterly. Clark discusses his relationship with the Filson Club and how it differed from his relationship with the Kentucky Historical Society.

Keywords: Boarding houses; Committees; Editors; Filson Club; Kentucky Historical Society; Meetings; Mentors; Offices; Presidents; Publications; Read; Relationships; Reports; Retirement; State archives; Writing

Subjects: Academic libraries.; History--Societies, etc.

00:36:42 - Creation of the state archives

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Partial Transcript: We then, sometime, to the best of my ability I'm going to try to straighten out all this stuff.

Segment Synopsis: Clark talks about his many attempts to get Kentucky governors like Julian Carroll and Louie B. Nunn to establish a state archives. Clark states that Julian Carroll finally agreed to provide funding for a building for the state archives, and Clark recalls finding a location and an architect. He also describes difficulties when federal funds were cut off.

Keywords: Board; Brokers; Building; Class; Contracts; Dentists; Doctors; Documents; Finances; Funds; Government; Historical society; Impossible; Letters; Library; Military; Money; Potential; Private; Proposal; Public; Sinkhole; State; State government; State library; Treasurer; Work

Subjects: Archives.; Government paperwork; Governors--Kentucky; Kentucky--Politics and government; Politicians--Kentucky; Public records

00:50:38 - Book Thieves Club and collections for the University of Kentucky

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Partial Transcript: Um, going back to Samuel Wilson, Judge Wilson--

Segment Synopsis: Clark describes his relationship with Judge Samuel Wilson and the Book Thieves Club. He recalls the development of the Book Thieves Club, which included himself, Judge Wilson, Winston Coleman, Dr. Frank McVey, and other scholars. Judge Wilson's library was donated to the University of Kentucky after his death.

Keywords: Collections; Connections; Friendships; University of Kentucky

Subjects: Academic libraries.; Archives.; History--Societies, etc.; Personal archives; Records; University of Kentucky. Department of History; University of Kentucky. Libraries. Division of Special Collections and Archives

00:57:23 - Leadership of the Kentucky Historical Society

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Partial Transcript: Um, one last question.

Segment Synopsis: Clark discusses changes to the Kentucky Historical Society after Bill Buster became director. Jim Klotter, a former UK student, also later became director. Clark also describes his role on the Kentucky Historical Commission, and finding the funding to process the Henry Clay Papers.

Keywords: Archives; Board of directors; Involvement; Kentucky Historical Society; Politics; Representatives

Subjects: Archives.; History--Societies, etc.