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When Archives Meets Museum

18 Oct 2021 09:21 | E-Resources Chair (Administrator)

This is the third in a series of Archives Month posts around this year's theme, North Carolina Travel, Tourism, and Vacation. It was written by Ed Morris, Executive Director of the Wake Forest Historical Museum & Wake Forest College Birthplace. If you're intrigued by the following artifact and want to travel to see it in person, you can find more information on the website of the Wake Forest Historical Museum.

For the first half of my career, I was an archivist at the North Carolina State Archives. In 1998 when my wife, Cathy Jackson Morris, became State Archivist of North Carolina, my career took a shift to museums and historic sites. In the museum business like in archives, provenance is an important factor.

The Wake Forest Historical Museum has long held a small collection of the papers of Dr. Calvin Jones. The bulk of his extensive papers are housed at the Southern Historical Collection at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. At his death in 1846, Jones bequeathed his papers to UNC, where for more than thirty years he served as a trustee.  Other items came to the Wake Forest Historical Museum from various individuals but mainly from Jones Family descendants.  Among those papers held in the Wake Forest Historical Museum’s archival collection are lists of furnishings mentioning a specific bed, a bill of sale from Raleigh furniture maker David Royster dated July 1826, and an earlier memorandum from Dr. Jones to his private secretary on things to do, which included writing Mr. Royster and asking when his “desk and bed would be done.”

In the spring of 2020 on the very day word came that the Covid pandemic would close pretty much everything across North Carolina, the Museum received a phone call with an offer. Dr. Calvin N. Jones, the great-great-great-grandson of the original Dr. Jones, was offering to the Museum the very bed described in those documents. The current Joneses, then residents of Winston-Salem, were moving to New Jersey to be close to their family. Their new home would not accommodate the massive bed with its eight-foot-high post. Documentation being everything to the provenance of the bed, we of course acted quickly to make arrangements to find a rental truck and travel from the town of Wake Forest to Winston-Salem down a nearly deserted Interstate 40 to take possession of this major artifact for the Dr. Calvin Jones House, a part of the Wake Forest Historical Museum’s complex.

Thanks to archival documentation and the family story, the bed has concluded its nearly 200-year journey from North Carolina, to Tennessee, then Indiana, back to Tennessee and now coming back home to Wake Forest. The bed is once again in the house and bedroom where it was first used in 1826. Not only does the Museum have the artifact but the archival documentation of its very creation.

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