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Slemons House target for proposed storytelling library

The Slemons House in Jonesborough could be the site for the Storytelling Resource Place.


Staff Writer

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Jonesborough has long been the storytelling capital of the world. But soon, Tennessee’s oldest town will also be home to a new storytelling library.

Storyteller Pam Miller told the Washington County Commission’s Health Education and Welfare Committee about the plans for a Storytelling Resource Place, which is set to include donated books, storytelling resources and memorabilia from Jonesborough’s Storytelling Festival.

Miller said the idea for the library was sparked by her initial arrival into Tennessee’s oldest town and her longing for a storytelling library.

“When I moved here 14 years ago, it was for the storytelling,” Miller said. “I went downtown and I asked everyone there, ‘Where is all the storytelling stuff? This is the storytelling capital of the world so we should have a great center of storytelling here.’ They showed me the beautiful ISC (International Storytelling Center) building, which is lovely. But I’m a retired professor and I was looking for, to be quite honest, a library of storytelling or a museum of storytelling.”

Miller said that since her arrival, she has donated several hundred books from her own library for the project. Project supporter and Washington County Jonesborough Library Director Richard Griffin, who was also at the meeting, said over 1,000 books have been collected for the Storytelling Resource Place so far.

Miller also said the resource place will be located in the Slemons House at Mill Spring Park in Historic Downtown Jonesborough. She told the committee that the Storytelling Resource Place board just signed a lease with the Town of Jonesborough.

The Slemons House, which Miller says has already seen repairs in the joists underneath the house and a flood abatement project, won’t just be home to books, however. The project is also aimed at preserving the storytelling history that has taken place throughout Jonesborough for decades.

“When the Storytelling Festival started over 40 years ago, it was this wonderful renaissance of storytelling all over the country,” Miller said. “And those same people who were there for the original Storytelling Festivals are getting older. Many of them have collected storytelling memorabilia, tapes, CDs, their whole lives. There is some concern that when they pass on, their heirs are just going to dump it in a dumpster. So part of my mission is to try to save materials.”

Miller said the group already has instruments, costumes and memory devices used by storytellers before print. But apart from being a resource center where folks can learn more about storytelling and soak in the history of the Storytelling Festival, the Jonesborough storyteller is also hoping to provide a year-around place for the community.

“We want people to come and enjoy the space. It has a beautiful front porch. So we’re going to have storytelling on the front porch and people in the winter sitting around the fire place with a vent-free, electric fire in it,” Miller said. “I can see it being used as kind of a community center.”