What began as a blogging pastime has developed into a historic venture for Cumberland University. President Dr. Paul Stumb welcomed the press and special guests to the university on Monday to unveil the "Van Buren Papers" project.
Project Co-Editor James Bradley noted it was surreal to be addressing the crowd on the success of his brainchild - mainly because unlike his distinguished colleagues the longtime journalist and magazine editor said, "I don't have a lot of little letters following my name."
"Five years ago I decided to start a blog about (President) Martin Van Buren. I wouldn't call it a lark but... something I was going to do for fun when I had a little spare time. I found myself enjoying it very much," Bradley explained.
He began getting emails from all over the world - China, Japan and Brazil - from other people who were also fascinated with Van Buren which inspired him to write a book.
Bradley described going through microfilm at the New York Public Library as a "brutal process" because Van Buren's handwriting was so awful.
He next spoke to the executive director of Van Buren's New York Estate who advised him to find a partner with "better credentials" - which is how the projected ended up at Cumberland.
"The first person I thought of was (Dr.) Mark Cheathem. He is the one historian today who is reminiscent of Robert Remini," Bradley commended his co-editor before joking. "I just pitched him the idea and said, 'Okay, now you do the heavy lifting.'"
Cheathem, a history professor at Cumberland University and author, jumped right in to transcribe, edit and digitizing over 13,000 presidential documents. Van Buren, the country's eighth president, is responsible for creating the two-party political system.
Cumberland will be one of only nine archives in the country to hold papers from Van Buren, who was our country's eighth president.
Cheathem will serve as project director and will be responsible for the day-to-day operations. Undergraduate students from Cumberland University will assist in the project.
Staff Writer Sabrina Garrett may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.