Mooresville digs history out of the attic for preservation

When buildings are demolished or remodeled, valuable memorabilia can be lost. Thanks to the foresight of the library and the town, Mooresville artifacts will be preserved.

Andy Poore - who calls himself the "best-paid junk man in town" - is curator of Special Collections at the library. Before that department was created, no organized entity existed to conserve local history. Documents were stored in filing cabinets and the back rooms of businesses.

People wanted to "bring history out of grandma's attic" and maintain it properly. With the creation of the Mooresville Museum, a volunteer organization, the resources for preservation have doubled.

"The museum is a strong cultural investment for any community," Poore said. "It not only preserves history but shows that we have people who are vested in the community and helping preserve the past."

As town liaison and ex officio board member of the museum, Poore enjoys his relationship with the collection's sister entity. He has catalogued almost 3,000 items.

More than 5,000 pieces have yet to be cataloged, but "that's a good thing," said Poore, who accepts donated items.

Photos, books and other printed materials reside in Special Collections; other objects are housed at the museum.

Because of limited storage, large items cannot be displayed until the museum is retrofitted. A round, free-standing bullet safe at Turner's Hardware awaits its return to a replicated First National Bank.

"The driving mission is to preserve history and knowledge so that, 50 years from now, people will know what the town was like," Poore said. With an eye to the past, he looks also to preserving new history, such as NASCAR and eventually Lowe's Cos.

He views Special Collections as the hub of a wheel that affects numerous groups, such as the Historic Preservation committee and the Downtown Commission. Homeowners may research a house's history or seek information about a structure on the property. Maps no longer needed by the town are archived, along with cemetery ledgers.

Poore himself is a special repository of town history. Without notes, he discusses items' historical significance or describes changes in the landscape. When he discusses the museum's history, he paints a scene of open fields at 132 E. Center Ave. Barger Construction erected the 9,000-square-foot building to dry lumber.

An opening was designed to allow unloading wood with a boom crane. Heat from pot-bellied stoves cured the wood. Later, trucks returned for dried lumber. The structure was built askew to allow trucks to drive straight inside.

In 1937, Charles Mack and Sons Wholesale Co. became the owner. John and Christy Mack donated the building to the town in 2005. Today the museum rents and preserves it for the town.

Poore created "Growing Up, Mooresville," an exhibit of then-and-now photographs at the museum. One shot depicts the original Belk Department store where the Citizens Center now stands.

Other examples of the town's history are displayed in changing exhibits at the library. The current show features Alfred Hitchcock's movies, which are being shown in the Burke room in August and September.