Church History Library Opens in Salt Lake City – June 12th & 13th

After 15 years of planning, four years of construction and a million artifacts moved, Elder Marlin K. Jensen from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints placed the last historical item on the shelf in the new Church History Library in front of local media.

Jensen, the historian and recorder of the Church, explained that this last item was one of the 100 scrapbooks kept by President David O. McKay. “It is a personal record filled with photos, letters and journal entries that documented his travels as an apostle in 1921 to the far corners of the earth.” Elder McKay’s world tour took him 55,000 miles to such countries as Australia, France, England, Italy, Switzerland, Samoa, Palestine, India and Egypt to survey the Church’s missions. One photograph captured a moment in Egypt with Elder McKay and his traveling companion, Hugh J. Cannon, both sitting on camels in front of the famous Sphinx. Elder Jensen was joined by President McKay’s grandson, Alan Ashton, when the journal was placed in one of the many vaults of the Church History Library.

The scrapbook was the last item but certainly not the least of the priceless artifacts and records Elder Jensen and assistant Church historian Richard E. Turley presented to news reporters as part of a media tour on June 11, 2009. Assistant executive director Elder Paul K. Sybrowsky and managing director of the Church History Department, Steve Olsen, were also in attendance and shared their knowledge of Church history with members of the media.

The group was given a first glimpse of what the public can expect to see during the upcoming open house at the Church History Library on June 12 and 13.

In addition to a media presentation and tour of the library, journalists were given a rare look at dozens of one-of-a-kind and intriguing pieces of Church history treasures on display. Perhaps one of the most unique items was an early edition of the Book of Mormon that was printed in French and German — on alternating pages. This early edition, the only one in existence, was translated through the supervision of John Taylor, an apostle and the eventual third president of the Church, while he was serving a mission in Europe in 1852.

In keeping with the Church History Department’s efforts to collect modern and current history, Elder Jensen spoke of the significance of the newly published LDS first edition Spanish language Bible. Another important undertaking on display was the Joseph Smith Papers project; the second volume is due out later this year.

In an extraordinary operation, thousands of similarly valued documents, books, photos, diaries, microfiche and film were

moved from their old home at the Church Office Building across the street to the Church History Library. It took just 19 days to physically accomplish the move, but it took hundreds of volunteers a year and a half to tag and categorize each piece slated for the move. One project leader compared the mammoth undertaking to moving the Library of Congress.

The most priceless and sacred records and documents were the last to make the move, under heightened security measures. They now join more than 600,000 other historic records housed and preserved on nearly 50 miles of shelving in temperature-controlled vaults with fire and seismic protection. Items such as film will even be kept in sub zero chambers. Brent Thompson from the Church History Department says the new temperature-controlled vaults will ensure that “not only will the artifacts be available in 100 years but they will look good 100 years from now.”

The Church History Library not only houses priceless documents and artifacts but also provides the latest methods in

conservation, collection development and research. Conservators repair, restore and stabilize books, documents and photographs with a state-of-the-art Conservation Lab. The lab includes a darkroom, where conservators are able to turn acetate negatives into useable photographs, and a document cleaning room that enables them to wash historical records and apply age-slowing chemical treatments.

That state-of-the-art spirit is also found in the innovation of the Church History Library’s design. Great care was taken to make sure the building not only met, but surpassed building code and energy efficiency standards. That attention to a “green” building design is found in such areas as the filtering system, which eliminates allergens.

The paper, plastic and metal products used in the Church History Library will be recycled, and the heating and cooling systems have the highest efficiency ratings. The landscaping and plumbing will use less water, and the windows, blinds and insulation will preserve temperatures. These careful implementations have put the Church History Library on track for the prestigious Silver Design certificate given through the acclaimed Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system.

But perhaps one of the most notable aspects of the new library is that it is designed for public accessibility. The Church History Department’s previous accommodations were designed to be more of an internal archive, said Steve Olsen, managing director over Church history. “The Church in its foundational documents has a huge commitment to preserving history and to making history useful for members and others interested in learning about its history,” said Olsen. “It is the first time in the Church’s 179-year history that we have had a dedicated public building for this purpose. … It’s really quite significant.”

RFK Dies 41 years ago today

Robert F. Kennedy died 41 years ago today.

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I had the opportunity to hear RFK speak at Brigham Young University on March 27, 1968. The 1960s were difficult times – in 1968 – the Vietnam War was raging, RFK was challenging a sitting President LBJ for his party’s nomination, demonstrators were in all of the major cities. Less than a week following RFK’s talk Martin Luther King would be shot & killed. Two months after that RFK was shot and killed.

Kennedy’s remarks on campus were effective. He had done his homework; he had broken the ice and won over the respect of the packed arena. That fairly conservative campus was no longer his adversary but was ready to listen. He spoke briefly and took all questions. Tough questions. He was grilled but he was comfortable explaining his positions on the current state of the war and the country.

I clearly remember his opening remarks – with humor he reached out to his audience and showed respect for their history and beliefs. His actions and remarks echo in today’s headlines.

“Thank you very much. Thank you. I appreciate very much being here at this campus … I understand that this is a campus made up of all political persuasions. I had a very nice conversation with Dr. {Ernest L.} Wilkinson [laughter] … and I promised him that all Democrats would be off campus by sundown [laughter, applause].

But I feel very close to this state. Not only did part of my wife’s family live in the state of Utah for a long period of time, I traveled down your Green River…spent part of the time in the water (laughter) … part of my honeymoon here and I’ve had ten children since – so I have learned something from the Mormons [laughter].

I think that we still have a great deal in common, and in common with the man this university honors. For I too have a large family [laughter], I too have settled in many states [laughter]. And now I too know what it is to take on Johnson’s army. [Standing ovation, laughter and applause].” (Read the complete text at: Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought Vol 3, Number 3, Autumn 1968).

The reference to “Johnson’s Army” was a reference to his taking on President Lyndon B. Johnson in the Democratic Party Primaries as well as to President James Buchanan sending General Albert S. Johnston and his troops to quell the non-existent “Utah Rebellion” in 1857. This otherwise obscure reference was well known to BYU students schooled in Utah history. With this series of well thought out personal & historical references he won over the crowd.

After his remarks students crowded around to shake his hand. I was one of them. I was surprised at how short he was. I had always pictured him as over 6’ tall – but he was only 5’9” … shorter than I was then (but now that I am shrinking, I am catching up to him :)

(Photo courtesy BYU Archives).

I learned that day that it is important to see and hear a person speak for themselves – to take the measure of a man. I concluded that he was an honest man who believed in what he was doing and trying to accomplish. It was an honor to shake his hand that day – 27 March 1968.

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Genealogist, Mary Sue Green Smith (1933-2009)

Prominent Nashville, TN genealogist, Mary Sue Green Smith (1933-2009) has passed away.

She was President of the Middle Tennessee Genealogical Society. She published eight books between 1994 and 2006; mostly reference works to be used in tracing one’s roots in Nashville. She indexed tens of thousands of pre-Civil War civil court records, which added to standard genealogical resources, many families whose names don’t otherwise appear in records.

Tennessean, The (Nashville, TN) – April 25, 2009
SMITH, Mary Sue Green Age 76 of Nashville, TN, died Friday, April 24, 2009. She was a genealogist, whose contributions helped African-American families with Nashville roots to trace their families back before the Civil War.


She was preceded in death by her husband, Burrell G. Smith and one of her sons, Robert Shelton Smith, who died in 1972. She is survived by three sons, John Kennedy Smith and wife Barbie of Indianapolis, Stephen Thomas Smith and wife Barbara Ann Mech of Nashville, and Richard Douglas Smith and wife Julie of Fairbanks, Alaska.

Her surviving grandchildren are John R. Smith of Big Bear, CA, Michael B. Smith, midshipman at the Naval Academy, Annapolis, MD, Thomas Shelton Smith and wife, Anne Kindt Smith of Knoxville, Katherine Holly Smith of Nashville, Andrew Kennedy Smith of Nashville, Jennifer Sue Smith of Fairbanks and Robert Elias Smith of Sault Ste. Marie, MI.

Her surviving sisters are Dorothy Strange of Loudon, TN, Barbara Butler of Nashville and Pam White of Nashville. Mary Sue Smith was a native of Nashville.

She graduated from David Lipscomb High School and attended David Lipscomb College, where she met Burrell G. Smith, who had served in the Army paratroopers in World War II. They were married in April, 1950. Hers was the first wedding in the newly built Otter Creek Church of Christ, at the corner of Otter Creek Road and Granny White Pike. Her father, the late Sam Kennedy Green, was an elder there.

The couple raised a family in Bellaire, MI. Burrell was an educator and a social worker. Sue served as clerk of the Antrim County Selective Service Board during the Vietnam War. She served on the mental health board of the county. After Burrell’s death, Sue returned to Nashville in 1986.

Sue was a genealogist and had served as President of the Middle Tennessee Genealogical Society. She published eight books between 1994 and 2006, mostly reference works to be used in tracing one’s roots in Nashville. She indexed tens of thousands of pre-Civil War civil court records, which added to standard genealogical resources, many families whose names don’t otherwise appear in records.

Her work made it possible for many African-American families to trace their parentage back into the years when persons held in slavery were listed, as property, in wills.

Memorial services will be conducted Sunday, April 26, 2009 at 3 p.m., at Woodbine Funeral Home, Hickory Chapel, 5852 Nolensville Road, by Tommy Daniel. Memorial contributions may be made to the charity of your choice. Visitation will be Sunday from 1 – 3 p.m., at WOODBINE FUNERAL HOME, HICKORY CHAPEL Directors, 615-331-1952; Still Family Owned.

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