BOONE — Thanks to a team from Appalachian State University, visitors at Moses H. Cone Memorial Park, located off the Blue Ridge Parkway, will have the opportunity to learn more about the history of the park’s Flat Top Manor.
Dr. Beth Davison, professor of sociology, co-director of Appalachian’s University Documentary Film Services and director of Appalachian’s interdisciplinary studies program, has released a new educational video — produced in partnership with the National Park Service — which is now showing in the manor’s mini theater. The theater was funded by an Appalachian Chancellor’s Innovation Scholars Program grant in 2018.
Tina White, a representative from the Blue Ridge Parkway, said, “For the first time ever, visitors will have an opportunity to get a short overview of the historical significance of the manor. This National Park Service site has been greatly enhanced by the productions and we could not have offered these additions without the wonderful partnership with Appalachian.”
The film, titled “A History of Moses H. Cone Estate Memorial Park: From Private Retreat to Public Pleasure Ground,” includes theatrical readings, historical pictures, excerpts from oral histories and reenactments of the construction and early days of the estate.
This is the second film to be shown in the mini theater, the furniture for which was constructed and designed by Appalachian’s applied design students. The first film shown was an edited version of “The Denim Dynasty” — Davison’s documentary about the history and legacy of Moses Cone, whose textile company was a world leader in producing denim.
“Once we had the mini theater in place, the idea was to add films that can be rotated,” said Davison, who collaborated on the production of the video with Dr. Derek Davidson, assistant professor in the ASU Department of Theatre and Dance.
Students, faculty and alumni from several disciplines participated in the film’s production.
“Beth thought using real people, rather than image after image of photos, would make the documentary more lively, dynamic and show off the manor more effectively,” Davidson said. “Martha Marking, one of the professors in our department, found costumes and appropriate props, and brought her expertise to hair styles.”
Appalachian alumnus Maurice Ewing, class of 1969, of Blowing Rock, narrated the film, and students from Davison’s theater class volunteered as silent actors.
Ryan Dozer, a junior from Raleigh majoring in music industry studies, composed and recorded the film’s soundtrack, and Maleek Loyd, a 2018 ASU graduate, was the director of photography for the project.
The film’s script was written by Ewing, Davison and Appalachian alumna Carrie Streeter, class of 2012, who is currently pursuing her doctoral degree in U.S. history at the University of California, San Diego.
Streeter provided much of the research for the film. She conducted a two-year research project for the NPS about the Cone family with Dr. Neva Specht, dean of Appalachian’s College of Arts and Sciences and professor in the college’s Department of History.
For her next NPS project, Davison is planning a documentary about the Blue Ridge Parkway’s agricultural leases. “That is a piece of parkway history most people don’t know about,” she said.
“Farmland with cows and livestock was a part of the original plan for the parkway, providing scenic landscapes for visitors and a valuable service for farmers, giving them an affordable option for grazing their cows,” she added.
“Students who participate in these productions will have hands-on learning experiences and will additionally learn about the area’s history and culture, as well as its environmental issues,” Davison said. “Documentary work sends students out in the community to engage with community partners and have conversations with community members they normally do not encounter.”