Source: NorthFulton.com

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Autrey Mill Heritage Center gets preservation grant
Specialists identify conservation priorities for historic preservation of site’s treasures

by Hatcher Hurd

December 04, 2013

Autrey Mill Heritage Center docent Suzette Meskell, from left, Autrey Mill board member Jacqueline Bass and docent Jan Mairose examine artifacts in the tenant house that have been catalogued as part of the Autrey Mill collection.
Docents Suzette Meskell and Jan Mairose examine an 80-year-old flour bag in Green’s Store.
Docent Jan Mairose arranges artifacts for display outdoors at Autrey Mill Nature Center and Heritage Center.
JOHNS CREEK, Ga. – The Autrey Mill Nature Preserve and Heritage Center got a big hand up in classifying and preserving some of its historic treasures with the help of a grant for professional expertise.

The National Institute for Conservation is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving the nation's heritage for future generations. Autrey Mill Nature Preserve and Heritage Center recently qualified for a grant from the Institute for Conservation to do what is called a conservation assessment of the site.

Board member Jacqueline Bass has been an historic conservationist in the past and was instrumental in securing the grant that brought two assessors to examine the cultural and heritage collections and buildings at the site.

This grant brought in professionals to look at the property, catalogue it and produce a "guidance document" that is twofold, Bass said.

First, it assesses what the center is doing. Second, it suggests ways that it could improve in all phases. The assessment reports will help Autrey Mill make appropriate improvements for the immediate, mid-range and long-range care of their collections and historic structures.

"Basically, it assesses how to inventory, maintain and display," Bass said.

One assessor looks at the collections at the tenant farmhouse, the Green Country Store and the farm museum, which is a large collection of old farm utensils.

"We had to narrow the scope to just three buildings [so the Summerour House, program barn and Warsaw Church were not included]. I selected the buildings that in my opinion were in the most need of an assessment due to the condition of the buildings or the amount of material inside the buildings," Bass said.

The collections include textiles and historic objects that belonged to the people who lived in those buildings. These include furniture, tools, quilts, photographs and other artifacts from their daily life. In the case of the Green's store, there are the store's ledgers that not only relate what kinds of goods were sold, but to which individual customers and families.

These are the buildings that hold most of the site's collection.

"All of these items need to be inventoried and conserved," Bass said.

The conservation experts spent two days on the property.

The first conservator catalogued the artifacts and how they are stored and displayed. Then she assessed their state of preservation and what improvements might be made for that preservation. The second assessor, an historic preservation architect, made an examination of the three buildings to assess their condition.

In authorizing the conservation assessment grant, Heritage Preservation President Lawrence L. Reger praised Autrey Mill Nature Preserve and Heritage Center for "making the vital work of caring for collections and sites a priority of their institution, even in these challenging financial times, and helping ensure that they are available to present and future generations."

Bass said Autrey Mill applied for the grant so that it could better pursue its goal of not only serving as the city's nature center with trails and a natural history museum, but to preserve and maintain a huge slice of Johns Creek's historical significance.

"We are grateful to the Institute for Conservation's help. This will be invaluable to us as we continue to plan and work for the future," Bass said.

Bass is also a docent for the property along with Suzette Meskell and Jan Mairose. Together, they provide on-site historical instruction and information to the visitors and students who come to the 46-acre park on Autrey Mill Road and Old Alabama Road.

They make the past "come alive."