Perry Sprawls Historical Preservation Mission and Methods

Perry Sprawls was born and grew up on the family farm in Barnwell County, South Carolina.  Following graduation from Clemson University with degrees in physics, nuclear science, and bioengineering, and recipient of the 2017 Distinguished Alumni Service Award,  his professional career was on the faculty of Emory University as a medical scientist in the field of radiology and now Distinguished Emeritus Professor.

Upon retirement his efforts have been directed to working with individuals, families, communities, institutions, and organizations, locally and internationally, in the preparation and publication of records and resources for the permanent preservation of their histories and heritage.

He makes use of modern technology, including digital photography, i-Phones, the internet, and satellites to develop and share resources in the preservation of Family Heritages. 

A major emphasis of his efforts is the urgency of taking actions now to preserve valuable information as many sources are being lost or destroyed.  This includes experiences, knowledge, and memories that individuals can share now that must be captured before being lost forever.
National and International Activities

On the national and international level he is a major participant and leader is several projects developing and preserving the historical aspects of medical science and radiology.  His over half century experience in this field along with other resources is the foundation for a series of historical articles published at: http://www.mpijournal.org/history.aspx .He is the creator and director of a project for the national medical physics organization that digitizes some selected medical physics books hat are of historical value and makes them available on the web.

Clemson and Emory Universities

His efforts are the preservation and online publication of biographies of deceased classmates at Clemson and retired faculty in his role at Emory as the Radiology Department Historian.
This reflects his value that the development and publication of biographies are major contributions to the preservation of Family Heritages.

Community Activities

In  Barnwell County, SC, a major initiative was the development and donation to the community of the web-based Barnwell County Virtual Museum (www.bcvm.org).  This includes providing websites and support for several of the museums within the county.  He has used his boyhood memories and interest in electronics to develop an operating exhibit of the old telephone and telegraph system for the Williston Museum (http://www.bcvm.org/williston/museum/index.htm )

In the early 1950s a large area in Barnwell County was taken over by the Federal Government for the construction of the Savannah River Project as a production site for nuclear bombs. All residents, including several small towns, were moved out or destructed.  One of the towns was Dunbarton.  His contribution to the preservation of their history is the development of Virtual Dunbarton on the web at: http://www.bcvm.org/Dunbarton/ . This involved extensive work and research with former residents developing information about displaced families, photographing relocated homes, and collecting records and artifacts.
Cemeteries and Columbariums

In years past, and especially in rural communities, families often had cemeteries on the family farms or other available places. Over time many of these smaller cemeteries have become neglected and lost, overgrown with vegetation, and are becoming destroyed.  Recognizing that these often are vital links to the past that need to be preserved led to two specific activities.  The first, with the help of some local residents, was to search for and attempt to locate every old cemetery in Barnwell County, SC.  Using modern satellite technology their GPS locations were measured and posted on the BCVM website.  It is now possible for interested persons to use that to obtain aerial photos and maps showing the location of the old, and maybe lost, cemeteries. A continuing activity is to encourage and assist families and communities in the creation of websites for cemeteries and columbariums  that will provide permanent and accessible information on internments along with the possibility of adding many family details. Here are two examples.  The old Sprawls Family Cemetery is physically located in a wooded and difficult to reach place on the old plantation.  However, with the website (https://www.findagrave.com/cemetery/2386326/sprawls-cemetery) it can now be “visited” from anywhere in the world.
One of the examples that he provides for a community is the Black Mountain Presbyterian Church Columbarium (
https://www.findagrave.com/cemetery/2585495/black-mountain-presbyterian-columbarium ).  Here he works with individual family members who provide information and photographs they would like to have included.

Individuals and Families

An ongoing major effort is to encourage individuals and families to take actions now, before items and memories are lost, to find, organize, preserve, and share the representations of their family history and heritage. This is best achieved with the different generations working together.  Specific details on how this can be achieved are provided in some in-class presentations, newspaper articles, with a complete summary on the website: www.sprawls.org/heritage .

Charlotte Sprawls is a major collaborator in this effort and provides this example for her maternal family: https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/136116408/edith-williams .