Margaret Avery Gash was born to Thomas Lenoir and Dovie Ann Deaver Gash near Brevard in 1873. The Gash and Deaver families were instrumental in the early development of Transylvania County of Brevard. Her father, a Confederate Veteran, served as mayor of Brevard and later represented the area in the North Carolina Legislature.
Margaret claimed to be the second person to enroll in what is now UNCG. According to family lore she was “sitting on the steps” when the doors opened. She was dismayed to learn that the first student had enrolled by mail which she didn’t think was an appropriate way to enroll.
She would go on to have a very successful career in library science as Chief Cataloguer at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Museum policy mandated retirement after 35 years of employment. Annually, for five years, Miss Gash received a special request from the Board of Trustees of the Metropolitan Museum of Art to work an additional year. She politely declined the fifth request.
Margaret Gash returned to her childhood home, Underhill, where she lived with her two brothers (Robert L. Gash and Will D. Gash), her sister (Annie Jean Gash), and her nephew (Robert T. “Bob” Gash). She is buried with her parents, siblings, and generations of forebears at the Davidson River Cemetery.
She also served as mentor in the library world to her younger sister, Annie Jean Gash, who was the librarian of Brevard’s old UDC Library. From 1912 until her she retired in 1960 Miss Annie Jean Gash worked at the library.
Emory Gash, great-nephew of the Gash sisters, provided the information above.
|Margaret Gash at work, Metropolitan Museum of Art, early 1940s.
Photo courtesy of UNCG University Archives.
During National Library Week (April 10-16, 2016) the following story, “Margaret Gash (Class of 1895): Chief Cataloguer, Metropolitan Museum of Art” written by Scott Hinshaw is being reprinted. It was originally published on the blog Spartan Stories, uncghistory.blogspot.com, a product of the UNCG University Archives. Hinshaw is an archivist in the University Libraries at UNCG.
This week’s story focuses on an early graduate of the North Carolina State Normal and Industrial School (now UNCG), Ms. Margaret Gash. Margaret Avery Gash of Pisgah Forest, North Carolina, was one of State Normal’s earliest graduates, having earned her degree in 1895. According to the Graduation Exercises booklet from 1895, her graduate thesis was titled, “The Development of Woman’s Educational Ideals.” Indeed, Ms. Gash tried to form a career in teaching after graduating from the State Normal, but she did not find much success in her first career choice. In an article published in the 1943 edition of Alumnae News, Gash states humbly, “…the teaching profession, for some reason unknown to me, seemed perfectly able to dispense with my services.” Fortunately for Ms. Gash, “the Library world to which I next turned was kinder.” After she left the teaching profession, she attended Pratt Institute Library School in Brooklyn, New York and gained her Certificate in 1900. At some point she also attended Melvil Dewey’s Albany Library School. If that name sounds familiar, it’s because he’s the inventor of the Dewey Decimal System! Thereafter she worked in public libraries until she got a job offer at an institution at which she would serve for the rest of her career.
Ms. Gash began working at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1906. She was tasked with organizing, cataloging, and indexing a mountain of correspondence, reports, minute books, wills, and contracts connected both with the history of the institution and its collections of art. She helped to devise a system of cataloging objects which would prove helpful to the museum in the same way a catalog of books is to a library. This “experiment” as Gash called it, began with her working on it part time, then full time, then she gained an assistant, and then finally she ended up with a group of five to six assistants working under her. With the years, her experience grew, and her final title when she retired was Chief Cataloguer. Ms. Gash retired in 1945, having worked at the Metropolitan Museum of Art for 39 years.
Ms. Gash’s work has been cited in articles on librarianship and museum collections, ranging in date from 1970 to 2014. The work she performed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art was part of a ground-breaking effort to systematically record holdings and information related to objects in museum-like settings. All this occurred at a time when modern library science was in its early years, as Melvil Dewey had opened the first library science school in America at Columbia University in 1887. Margaret Avery Gash passed away on September 9, 1950 in Pisgah Forest, North Carolina.
Photographs and information for this column are provided by the Rowell Bosse North Carolina Room, Transylvania County Library. Visit the NC Room during regular library hours (Monday-Friday) to learn more about our history and see additional photographs. For more information, comments or suggestions contact Marcy at [email protected] or 828-884-3151 X242.