More About Collections

For information about donating materials, click here.

Collection Program Objectives

Special Collections builds collections of manuscripts, books, and other unique primary research materials, primarily in support of the scholarly community of the University of Tennessee and the residents of Tennessee. Priority is placed on materials with a strong state and regional focus. Special Collections seeks new initiatives and acquires new collections to support changing academic needs and interests. Special Collections continually seeks to create improved access to local collections through digitization efforts.

Special Collections focuses its collecting activities with an awareness of the collecting priorities and holdings of other local, state, and national repositories. In general, Special Collections attempts to avoid duplicating or dividing collections. Special Collections seeks to build collections in areas not well covered by other repositories.

Special Collections works closely with other departments in the University Libraries, including Research Collections and Scholarly Communication, to acquire, manage, and provide access to collections. In addition, Special Collections collaborates with related university departments including the Center for Jacksonian America, the Center for the Study of War & Society, and the Howard Baker Center for Public Policy.

Library Users

Special Collections primary responsibility is to the University of Tennessee’s faculty and students.  Priority is placed on building collections in subject areas that receive significant and sustained attention within the University community.  Special Collections also serves scholars from other institutions, national and international, as well as the general public.

Programs Supported by the Collections

Many of the University of Tennessee’s academic programs and research initiatives rely upon Special Collections for resources.  The collections support the curriculum campus-wide, and some specific areas include the Architecture, Information Sciences, Anthropology, and the Chancellor’s Honors programs.  Certain programs in particular utilize Special Collections frequently including:

  • History scholars exploring regional, national and world history
  • English faculty and students conducting  bibliographic studies of American, Tennessee, and British Literature
  • Political Science faculty and students analyzing Tennessee political development
  •  Art and Art History students studying book arts, printmaking, and color theory
  • Film and Theater program scholars examining costume and set designs

Collecting Priorities

With the general scope of Tennesseanna, the library focuses on a few select topics for comprehensive coverage.  These areas of focus are:

  • Tennessee and the Civil War
  • Tennessee political materials of the 1800’s
  • Tennessee imprints
  • Confederate imprints
  • Great Smoky Mountains
  • Religion in Tennessee, primarily 1800-1950
  • Native American materials, primarily Cherokee and Creek Tribes
  • 20th and 21st Century Tennessee authors
  • Civil Rights activities in Tennessee
  • The growth of Knoxville in the 20th Century
  • Tennessee Valley Authority
  • Oak Ridge and Oak Ridge National Laboratory
  • Tennessee Family Papers
  • Early hymn books and shape-note song books
  • Miniature books (10 cm. high or smaller)
  • University of Tennessee history

If the items coincide with established collecting priorities, other materials are also considered:

  • Books that exemplify historically important binding types or printing methods
  • Association items
  • Autographed books
  • Significant First editions
  • Limited editions of 250 or less

Collecting priorities change over time as academic research programs develop and diminish in the University.  Special Collections attempts, to the extent possible, to anticipate future research needs of the University community.  Areas of previous collection focus that are no longer developed include:

  • The life and works of William Congreve
  • The life and works of Jane Austen
  • 20th -21st Century Tennessee Politics   (Managed by Modern Political Archives in the Howard Baker Center for Public Policy.)
  • Mexico and the Pre-Columbian cultures
  • The National Parks of the American West
  • Classical Greece, Turkey, and the Byzantine world

Collecting Methods

The Head of Special Collections is responsible for setting policy and coordinating collection development activities, in consultation with other University Libraries subject librarians.

Acquisitions through Purchase
Materials are selected and purchased from dealers, private individuals, or organizations.  Purchases are funded by Special Collections acquisitions funds, endowment income, and donations.

Acquisitions through Gifts
Special Collections solicits gifts of materials from individuals and organizations, and often works in conjunction with the Library Development Office.  Tennessee alumni, faculty members, and other members of the University community are encouraged to provide assistance in identifying potential donors.

Gifts to the University Libraries are tax deductible, but IRS regulations prohibit the University Libraries from providing estimations or appraisals.

In certain instances, potential donations may be deemed inappropriate for Special Collections due to content, condition, size, format, or other factors.  When possible, these donors should be referred to other more suitable repositories.

General Guidelines:

  • Duplication of holdings in Special Collections is generally avoided.
  • Loan or deposit materials are accepted only in rare cases.
  • In select circumstances, materials may be accepted with temporary use restrictions on condition that the materials are available for use within a reasonable period.
  • With the exception of University Archives, gifts of artwork and other artifacts are generally not accepted due to the lack of appropriate storage for such materials.

Guidelines for the Deselection of Materials

Special Collections may deselect any materials that do not meet the selection criteria outlined in this policy.  Special Collections will consider any legal restrictions and the donor’s intent in the broadest sense.

Procedures for the deaccession or disposal of materials will be at least as rigorous as those for purchasing and should be governed by the same basic principles.  The decision to dispose of materials must be made after consideration of the public interest and the needs of researchers.