Initially I had a little difficulty finding a Finding Aid that resulted in any leads. I first tried the Virginia Historical Society website, which provided finding aids for manuscripts and archives, but came across nothing related to my research. I then tried the Virginia Tech Special Collections Manuscript Guide, and came across the papers from a few families that may or may not be of some use. Finally, I went to Google and typed in “Saltville Virginia Finding Aid” and stumbled upon the “Guide to the Smyth County, Virginia Lifetime Collection, 1833-1991” in the Belk Library Special Collections at Appalachian State. There are a number of boxes in the collection that are referred to as “Saltville Papers” and could be very helpful resources. Though I made a little progress, I believe I need to hone my Finding-Aid-finding skills.
Kent, William B. A History of Saltville, Virginia. Radford, Virginia: Commonwealth Press, 1955.
The first source I reviewed this week was A History of Saltville, Virginia, by William B. Kent. The book is broken down thematically, transitioning topic by chapter. Kent prefaces by stating that, “In compiling these notes relative to Saltville, no literary skill is attempted” and that “the book record was requested by those who read some of the stories published in the local newspapers a few years ago” This note leads me to believe that Kent was perhaps a local historian that produced this book purely for the purpose of serving his surrounding community. However, he does acknowledge several others who have written similar histories, and hopefully these names will provide leads that I can follow to larger source bases.
Of particular interest was chapter 23, “A Catastrophe”, in which Kent outlines the Christmas Eve disaster of 1924 and provides a brief picture of the actions taken by witnesses.
Kent does not include notes or a bibliography, but hopefully I will be able to access some of the sources he utilizes by tracking down the contributors from his preface.
Baum, Andrew, Raymond Fleming, and Laura M. Davidson. “Natural Disaster and Technological Catastrophe.” Environment and Behavior 15, no. 3 (May 1, 1983): 333–54.
The second source I read this week was “Natural Disaster and Technological Catastrophe” by Andrew Baum, Raymond Fleming, and Laura M. Davidson. While the authors are actually trained in Medical Psychology, their article is significant in that it introduces and analyzes the concept of “technological catastrophe” in comparison with natural disasters. “Technological catastrophes” are defined as “events that are human made in that they are accidents, failures, or mishaps involving the technology and manipulation of the natural environment that we have created to support our standard of living.” The premise of the article is that these catastrophes are not only inherently different than natural disasters, but also potentially more detrimental to the societies they affect.
The authors are concerned with the psychological effects of such catastrophes, however, for the purposes of my paper, the concept of “technological catastrophe” is useful for describing the type of disaster event that occurred and provides an analytical framework within which I can assess the effects of the disaster on the community.
Following class discussion last week, I reconsidered the questions I was posing for my project and made a few revisions.
First, I have decided to move forward with the Saltville Disaster of 1924 (although I need to decide on the exact name, as it has gone down in history as “The Christmas Eve Disaster” and “The Palmertown Tragedy”).
Additionally, I considered what Dr. Jones said about making assumptions within our questions. I had not even considered that the simple questions I asked were taking certain aspects of my topic for granted or already presuming certain outcomes of my research.
My initial questions were:
How did the __(name)__ disaster of _(year)_ transform the community of _(area in which disaster occurred)_? Additionally, who was most susceptible to this event and what contributed to their vulnerability?
After a little review, I have revised them:
How did the Saltville Disaster of 1924 impact Saltville and its surrounding communities? Additionally, were there any specific groups of people that were disproportionately susceptible to this event and if so, what contributed to their vulnerability?
In discovering the answers to these questions, I will be able to come to conclusions about vulnerability in Saltville before/during/after this disaster. Only once I have answered the questions will I be able to make broader statements about the relationship of the Saltville Disaster to a larger disaster culture.
 Kent, preface.
 Baum, 334.