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On the Archivist’s Desk: A Century’s Worth of Records

Written By Amy Dangelico

Posted 01/09/17

Updated 04/05/24

Estate History

Biltmore archivist Jill Hawkins is responsible for cataloging, managing, and preserving Biltmore’s historic records. With more than a century’s worth of manuscripts, books, photographs, drawings, and the like to handle, organization is paramount.

Biltmore Marketing Material

One of Jill’s projects is conducting an inventory of outdated Biltmore marketing materials, which is no small task. Some of the items have labels, helping to put the pieces together, but many do not. From hard copies of video mailing tapes to recordings of commercials from as far back as the 1970s, there are literally dozens of boxes of material to be processed.

The marketing materials include three types of records: audiovisuals, photographs, and paper documents. The audiovisual materials are the least stable of the three and must first be digitized before they can be cataloged. Jill sent the master videotape collection to be digitized first and is now preparing to send a collection of film reels to be digitized.

Chauncey Beadle’s Incoming Correspondence

Jill is also processing estate superintendent Chauncey Beadle’s incoming correspondence. Of all George Vanderbilt’s principal managers, Beadle’s archival collection is by far the largest.

Beadle said he came to Biltmore for a month and stayed for a lifetime. From his initial role as Biltmore nursery supervisor in 1890 to his final role as estate superintendent until his death in 1950, there is an enormous amount of correspondence to be processed. From files and files tightly pressed…

…in boxes and boxes…

…which fill shelves upon shelves.

Accessions: Biltmore Dairy Farms

Cataloging new accessions is an ongoing project for Jill. Accessions are documents and objects acquired through either donation or purchase to be added to Biltmore’s archival collections. Most recently, she received some items from the days of the Biltmore Dairy.

Perhaps most notable is a “Time Book,” providing a record of names, hours, and wages of dairy workers from January 1908 through October 1909.

Another fascinating new accession is a coupon book, likely from around the same time.

With such a massive and ever-growing amount of material to manage, Jill certainly has her work cut out for her—but she assures us that it is a labor of love.

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