Monday, April 18, 2016

Housing Authority of the City of Asheville Publications: Exhibit Notes

History intern Kalen Doleman created an exhibit of publications from the Housing Authority of the City of Asheville Records. The exhibit can be viewed in the three display cases outside of Special Collections, located on the top floor of Ramsey Library.  Kalen also wrote this guide to the exhibits:
During the 2015-2016 Spring Semester, Kalen Doleman interned in UNC Asheville’s special collections as part of the hands-on history intern requirement. As an intern, Kalen worked on multiple collections processing information, scanning photos, and creating various finding aids. Partway through the semester, Kalen began processing and creating a finding aid for the City of Asheville Housing Authority (HACA) Photographic Media. While working on this collection, he noticed that the Photographic Media contained similar elements to the HACA publications; another collection he had processed much earlier in the semester. After organizing the physical collection, Kalen began to process everything electronically. While doing this, he decided to create an exhibit on the Asheville Urban Renewal Project.
 The actual collection had plenty of items from the 1940s to the 1990s. This enabled Kalen to create a very detailed exhibit spanning multiple decades, while simultaneously providing one overall theme to the story. The actual exhibit contains twenty-one items all organized into three different sections. Kalen’s goal for this exhibit was to provide some insight into the urban development program, by presenting some of its effects. And giving detailed evidence on the development program’s different stages. The main purpose of this exhibit is to show what changes were made in the Asheville area, and allow the viewer to determine the reasons behind these changes. 

From the 1940s to the 1990s, there was a huge push for urban renewal and development in the Asheville area. HACA really began its push in the 1950s, which is when they started executing the plans for urban renewal. This is reflected in the HACA publications collection. The program had many economic, social, and racial effects that can be seen even today. Based on the documents in the collection, it seems that the height of this program occurred during the 1970s. The documents emphasize a strong push towards demolition, and reconstruction, especially in low income areas. For the most part, these areas were residency areas for minorities. From what can be gathered it seems there was not much consideration for the people who lived in these places. One of the reasons for the Urban Renewal Program was to generate economic growth and development, with some emphasis on how the environment would be affected. The layout of Asheville demographically, and commercially, are perhaps the most noticeable long lasting effects of this program.

During the project, many people had no choice but to leave their homes and find somewhere else. The main cause of this removal, was the fact that the Urban Renewal Project destroyed many homes in order to construct new and more expensive buildings. This can be seen as part of a long-term process of gentrification, which happened over a fifty year period. There are also HACA records regarding different populations of people depending on the area of residency. So there is evidence that HACA conducted research into the standard of living and the demographic makeup of these gentrified areas.

 Commercially, there were also many changes in the business layout of the city. This is something HACA did a large amount of research on as well. Documents in the exhibit show that there was a focus on the local economy of the Asheville area. Looking at the documents, there seemed to be a cost benefit analysis of the environmental and economic effects of the program. This makes sense because the Urban Renewal Program was part of a plan for more economic growth and development. 

  The purpose of this exhibit is not to blame or justify HACA’s actions. The purpose is to make people aware of what happened, gather information, analyze the situation, and make their own judgment on the purpose of this program and its long-lasting effects. This exhibit provides plenty of information on the procedures, and policies that HACA used during Urban Renewal Project. To have a closer look, please visit special collections.