Without people like Hilary Morrish, we might forget Atlanta’s older neighborhoods. On May 20th 2009, Morrish (a Georgia State University Library Technical Assistant) received the 2009 Historic Preservation Achievement Award from the Georgia Historic Preservation Division. Her contribution is significant to the historic preservation of Georgia, as Morrish and others documented the Collier Heights neighborhood and contributed to it being the first African-American ranch neighborhood nominated for the National Registrar.
With an undergraduate degree in history, Morrish organizes, describes and prepares finding aids for the University Library’s collections of historical value. She also assists patrons with their research inquiries. “I have always enjoyed old buildings,” says Morrish, “I remember exploring old abandoned buildings as a child. They are such a catalyst for the imagination.” Morrish believes each building has a story to tell, one that reveals its evolution.Morrish and her fellow graduate students certainly revealed the story of Collier Heights. As part of their program work in Georgia State University’s Heritage Preservations Program, the group compiled enough supporting documentation to nominate Collier Heights to the Historic District National Registrar. According to the Georgia Historic Preservation Division’s press release:
Collier Heights is Atlanta and Georgia’s largest and most significant mid-20th-century African-American suburb. When it was being developed during the 1950s and 1960s, it was heralded nationally as the country’s premier African-American suburb, developed by as well as for African Americans. Yet until recently, its history was largely undocumented, the area was not represented in any field surveys, and its significance was not widely known.
Morrish’s group worked to illuminate that importance by surveying the massive neighborhood and documenting the lives of a sample of its original residents. “As we explored the history,” she said, “We realized this neighborhood was a cradle so to speak, for many leaders of the Civil Rights movement.” By recording the history of this suburb, these students were able to establish a research model that will be useful when documenting other 20th Century African-American suburban developments.Morrish’s award is well deserved, as her efforts have ensured that a neighborhood vital to Atlanta’s history will not be forgotten.