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Trailblazers: Exhibit of Photographs of the Early Years of the Great Smoky Mountain Park

The sixth floor of Hodges Library on the University of Tennessee campus is the new home for an exhibit of historical photographs–Trailblazers: Jim Thompson and Albert “Dutch” Roth Photographs of the Early Years of the Great Smoky Mountain Park.

Jim Thompson and Albert “Dutch” Roth were two men whose participation in the development of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park coincided with their love of photography. This outstanding photographic collection documents the early land conservation movement, with images of such luminaries as David Chapman, who had a Smokies mountain named for him, and Harvey Broome, founding member of the Wilderness Society. The images include many subjects from the 1920s to the 1950s, including: logging, road building, the creation of the Appalachian Trail, the founding of the Smoky Mountain Hiking Club, and of course the majesty and beauty of the Smokies.

Curated by Bill Britten, head of Library Technology Services, the exhibit is a fortunate by-product of a project by the University of Tennessee Libraries to digitize these historical photographs. The result, which is a collection of stunning images, lovingly restored and presented in a manner that exceeds what Thompson or Roth could have imagined, shows how a modern digital project can come full circle and restore old photographs as both art and historical statement.

Sincere gratitude is extended to the following for permission to use the images: the family of Albert “Dutch” Roth, Ed Thompson and Thompson Photo Products, the McClung Historical Collection of Knox County Public Library, and the Great Smoky Mountains Regional Project, UT Libraries.

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