At the onset of the COVID-19 quarantine, we announced that most activities would cease because of the difficulty in attracting larger local sponsorships. Since then we have been encouraged to try to resuscitate Picnooga with a resolute crowdfunding effort that will carry us through to 2021. So, this, right here, is your chance to #SavePicnooga.
As a dominant advocate and appreciable source of local history, Picnooga, a 501(c)(3) organization, is essential to the fabric of Chattanooga and its cultural footprint. Over the past six years, we’ve reached millions of desktops all over the world by utilizing social media and the internet as a virtual window into Chattanooga’s past. We’re not only a resource, and an aggregate of local history, but an active collecting effort that has accumulated over 4,500 historic photos and artifacts. Thanks to tireless detective work and research, we’ve uncovered rare, sometimes one-of-a-kind, treasures that might otherwise have been lost, misplaced or, on occasion, discarded.
We are seeking to raise at least $15,000 to enable us to continue carrying out our mission through March 2021. This effort is on an entirely voluntary basis so there are no salaries to be paid out. $15,000 is about double Picnooga’s average annual budget, but, because of the growth in the collection, there’s an immediate need to advance our preservation best practices.
Where will the money be spent? How will it be used?
Our secure archival space is free, but it does require new shelving and better overall organization. Also needed are special archival enclosures for about 1,000 negatives, and a small refrigerator for cold storage of negatives and film.
There are special opportunities we’ve been presented with that are time-sensitive. These involve acquiring historically important items that are in danger of being sold to private collectors, possibly outside the Chattanooga area. Although we may not be able to purchase every item we are offered, at the very least we can get a foothold and, with additional funding, acquire more.
We’re currently working on a searchable catalog of the collection outside of our social media postings and Flickr account. For now, it’s an internal search facility but we do have plans to make it more widely available online by next year. Though it is actually a minimal cost now, it is time and labor-intensive.
There are also a few small projects we have started that we need to finish, i.e., making our existing film and audio archive publicly available.
We accept donations of photographs, but we also aggressively network, and hunt and pick unique items that help present Chattanooga’s story from a very inclusive perspective. (An armchair version of ‘American Pickers’, but applying to Chattanooga history). This is the only way to directly attract back local historical items that have strayed from the area. We also work with local resources to uncover significant and valuable finds.
We will soon be registered as a ‘nonprofit’ with the State of Tennessee, and will have a Federal Tax ID. In the past, we’ve been registered with the State. This will allow for donations to be totally tax-deductible and allow us to start pursuing grants. This will also give members of the community the opportunity to serve on the board, helping to lead and steer Picnooga’s future.
How do we currently serve the community?
Picnooga has been a free resource to anyone with internet access via a computer or a mobile device. Free accessibility has been a key component of the project, and the internet allows us to deliver information with minimal barriers at a low operating cost.
We have 41,000 followers on Facebook, and several thousand more on Instagram and Flickr.
We provide historical reference assistance to the public as needed, and supply images from our archive to nonprofit, for-profit, and educational projects.
We’ve built a large online footprint of local history, and have become a known authority brand for history in the region.
Picnooga has teamed up with other history projects, and co-launched projects like chattanooganewspapers.org, which provides free keyword searching of over 30,000 historical newspaper pages from the Chattanooga area.
Why the need to acquire historical photographs and other relevant objects?
There has been a decline in donations to libraries and museums as the public has become more likely to try to monetize family possessions that have lost personal meaning or reference. This development is a result of the online auction economy where historical significance may well be a valuable commodity, and there are many private collectors ready to buy and trade. Over the years we’ve learned only to acquire items that meet certain criteria of rarity, or help fill out the stories of other objects we’ve collected in the past. During this journey, we’ve connected with various sellers and collectors who are respectful of our mission, and we most always receive a fair deal. As with any commodity, the market has its highs and lows, and over the last year, the trend has been a bit higher.
What happens if you cannot raise $15,000?
A $15,000 annual budget is meager by most nonprofit standards. If we were to hire one junior employee to take care of social media alone, $15,000 would be less than half the anticipated salary.
With encouragement from our core followers, we’re very confident that we can raise the money. However, if we are only able to partially raise the money, our focus will be on improving our archival best practices and storage challenges, and cataloging the collection. Collection and acquisitions would stop, which would badly damage our mission as these activities are the very heart and core of Picnooga. Our activities would, necessarily, slow to a crawl.
If we were to raise more than $15,000, the additional funds would carry us through 2021, giving us the scope to, hopefully, grab wider attention and develop stronger sponsorship opportunities.
How much do you want from me?
We realize this is a very difficult time to be asking for money, so we are only asking for $5 as a minimum. If 3,000 of our 40,000+ followers donate just $5 each – we’d be there!
If you are a company or organization with a larger gift in mind, let’s chat.
Thank you for your consideration, and for choosing to #SavePicnooga and support local history.
Mailing Address: PO Box 326, Lookout Mountain, Tennessee 37350 Tel: (423) 972-0209