Monday, June 15, 2020

Grassmere Historic Farm at the Nashville Zoo and the Tennessee State Library and Archives Wins 2020 AASLH Award of Excellence

We are pleased to announce that the American Association for State and Local History (AASLH) has selected Grassmere Historic Farm at the Nashville Zoo and the Tennessee State Library and Archives to receive an Award of Excellence for the collaborative project “Nashville To Miami To Havana: Cuba, Castro and the Croft Family.” The AASLH Leadership in History Awards honor not only significant achievement in the field of state and local history, but also bring public recognition of the opportunities for small and large organizations, institutions, and programs to make contributions in this arena.

Project Leads Jennifer Randles and Tori Mason, pictured here in the center with members of the Tennessee State Museum staff, Rachel Helvering, Community Engagement Manager and Jeff Sellers, Director of Education and Community Engagement.

The Nashville Zoo exists today due to the foresight of two sisters, Margaret and Elise Croft. In October 2018, Tori Mason, Nashville Zoo Historic Site Manager, and Jennifer Randles, TSLA Digital Materials Librarian, traveled to Florida and Cuba to research the Croft sisters’ business. In Florida, they conducted oral history interviews with 94-yr old Bradford Dallas, the man who was the Croft’s business administrator in Havana during the Cuban Revolution. Several of his letters and other documents are on the Tennessee Virtual Archive website ( They also spent time in Havana traveling to various locations associated with the Croft and the Dallas families. Mason and Randles wrote blog posts published on the zoo and TSLA websites, which led to speaking invitations. They created a PowerPoint presentation, including sound bites from the interviews, and from December 2018 to October 2019 presented eight public programs reaching nearly 300 people.

Tennessee State Museum “Lunch and Learn” presentation July 17, 2019.

Sound bites are currently on TSLA’s Tennessee Virtual Archive (TeVA), and recordings are being transcribed with plans to publish them online. This information captures first-had accounts of the Cuban Revolution while making it relevant to Nashville, and zoo, history. Sharing what they learned was an essential part of advancing the mission of enriching, inspiring, and educating those interested in a deeper understanding of the Nashville Zoo.

Image of Croft House at 419 Calle 19, in front of current buildings at that address.

Follow the links below to learn more about this project and explore the Grassmere Collection in TeVA:

The Tennessee State Library and Archives is a division of the Office of Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett

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