• Approximately 1,500 black bears live in the national park.

    Great Smoky Mountains

    National Park NC,TN

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Museum collections

Issue 6 > Meet the Managers > Museum collections
John McDade organizes archives.

John McDade, the Smokies' curator, organizes the park's archival history.

NPS photo.

Under the Sugarlands Visitor Center are some of the keys to the park’s past. This time, we’re not talking about artifacts buried underground, but rather park archives in the Sugarlands basement. In climate-controlled, dry rooms are hundreds of drawers holding a wealth of Smoky Mountain culture: letters, photographs, newspaper articles, proclamations, and oral histories telling the story of the park’s people and places.

To see (and hold) 3-D pieces of the Smokies history, you’d have to travel farther afield. Most of the large physical artifacts—household goods representing Southern Appalachian lifestyles, for example, and fragments of prehistoric pottery—are housed in Oak Ridge, TN at the Department of Energy’s Office of Science and Technical Information, or OSTI for short. Eventually, the park hopes to bring all of the collections at these two sites together as research and education tools.

The new curator of these cultural archives is John McDade, who has worked in several museums, and most recently at Acadia National Park in Maine before coming to the Great Smoky Mountains. Being a curator in a park as large and culturally rich as the Smokies is a huge job, so John is already busy improving safe, archival storage systems, sorting historic materials, and preparing for new exhibits that will be in the Visitor Center the park is building at its southern Oconaluftee entrance.

Did You Know?

The park is named for the misty clouds that hang over the mountains.

The wispy, smoke-like fog that hangs over the Smoky Mountains comes from rain and evaporation from trees. On the high peaks of the Smokies, an average of 85 inches of rain falls each year, qualifying these upper elevation areas as temperate rain forests. More...