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Ramsey Center Hosts 4th Annual "Unveiling Our Treasures"
The Liston B. Ramsey Center for Regional Studies will host its fourth annual “Unveiling Our Treasures” event at 3 pm on Thursday, February 16, in Peterson Conference Room, Blackwell Hall, on the campus of Mars Hill College.
The program will explore the findings of this year’s Hart-Melvin Archival Research Fellows, Dr. Marc Mullinax, professor of religion, and Jordon Crawford, senior Zoology major. Mullinax and Crawford are the fourth faculty/student team to spend a semester researching in the Southern Appalachian Archives, housed at the Ramsey Center.
The team will present findings from a variety of archival collections that they used in studying land-based Appalachian values, and the spiritual heritage of Mars Hill College. Crawford, specifically, will present her research on how Appalachian values pertain to soil-use and to food.
According to Mullinax, the mountainous landscape of western North Carolina affects everything about the culture of the region.
“These mountains have influenced the way people live, from housing to roads to relationships. They have at once isolated, and helped engender an interdependence between the people,” he said. “The mountains have affected kinship, economics, politics, or, in a word, culture. In turn, the culture is built into the very fabric of the churches and spirituality expressions. Culture is a big part of the religion.”
Mullinax said the interdependence of mountain people is often expressed in tight-knit communities, with customs that emphasize a spirit of sharing. “There is so much held in common here, such that one key value here – one definitely shaped by the land – is that community is key,” he said.
Mullinax said that culture of commonality is also part of the spiritual heritage of Mars Hill College. Specifically, Mullinax and Crawford have studied the spiritual contributions of former professors Martin England and Walter Johnson, who led symposia on the Mars Hill campus that explored alternative ways of following Jesus. The writings of England, in particular, inspired a man named Clarence Jordan to begin a highly influential community in Georgia known as Koinonia Partners. That community, which is based on common ownership of property, then gave birth to such world-wide ministries as Habitat for Humanity.
“I have found a vital spirituality of sharing and giving that arises – like food – directly from the land. Mars Hill is right in the middle of these values, and has informed much of who we are,” Mullinax said.
Among the historic documents studied were: local church records, French Broad Association minutes, and papers from the James G.K. McClure Farmer’s Federation Collection.
The “Unveiling Our Treasures” series is sponsored by the Liston B. Ramsey Center for Regional Studies as part of its focus on various collections in the possession of the college’s Southern Appalachian Archives, and is funded by a prestigious grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.
The work of the research team is funded by the Hart-Melvin Archival Research Fellowship, which was endowed last year by the MHC Class of 1960. The Fellowship is named for two beloved professors: retired physical education professor and coach, Dr. Virginia Hart, and retired professor of history and religion, Dr. Robert Melvin, who passed away in 2010.