Skip to content

Special Collections


The University of Tennessee Libraries Special Collections is dedicated to building collections of manuscripts, books, and other unique research materials in support of both the University’s scholarly community and interested members of the general public. Our current collection strengths include:

  • The Civil War in Tennessee
  • Tennessee politics and politicians
  • Religion in Tennessee between 1800 and 1950
  • Native American tribes in the Southeast
  • 20th century Tennessee authors
  • Knoxville’s growth during the 20th century
  • Oak Ridge and the Tennessee Valley Authority
  • The Great Smoky Mountains
  • The University of Tennessee

Donations of personal, family, or organizational papers related to these collecting strengths are welcome.

Why should I donate my materials to Special Collections?

Letters, diaries, photos, and other material collected over the years give vital and unique information regarding your life or the history of your family or organization. Whether or not members of your family attained a degree of fame, they have contributed to the heritage of a certain time and place. When you donate your papers to Special Collections, your history becomes a part of the community’s collective memory.

What types of materials might Special Collections accept?

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

  • University of Tennessee history
  • Tennessee and the Civil War
  • Tennessee political materials of the 1800’s
  • Great Smoky Mountains
  • Native American materials, primarily Cherokee and Creek Tribes
  • 20th and 21st Century Tennessee authors
  • Civil Rights activities in Tennessee
  • Tennessee Family Papers
  • Books that exemplify historically important binding types or printing methods
  • Autographed books
  • Significant First editions

We accept collections of as small as a single item and as large as dozens of boxes. Material need not be organized, old, or related to a famous individual, event or organization for it to be historically significant. Types of materials collected by Special Collections include:

  • Letters and correspondence
  • Diaries, memoirs, and reminiscences
  • Writings, papers, speeches, and reports
  • Photographs and scrapbooks
  • Records of a business, community group, or organization

There is no need for you to cull or reorganize the materials. In fact, the research value of the materials may be diminished if items are removed or if the records are rearranged. Potential donors, therefore, are encouraged to contact Special Collections before weeding, discarding, or reorganizing their papers.

If it is determined that the materials would be better served in another repository, staff may suggest more appropriate locations for your donation. If it is determined that the collection belongs in Special Collections, staff will work with you on the physical transfer of the materials and on the completion of a deed of gift.

What happens to my materials after they are received by Special Collections?

Staff and students in Special Collections have been trained in the organization and preservation of rare materials. Papers donated to Special Collections will be processed according to professional archival standards and housed in acid-free folders and boxes to assure their life and security. Any items found in the collection that are not deemed historically significant or that contain sensitive information can be returned to you, if requested. Selected items may be chosen for digitization. A finding aid (a brief guide to the collections for researchers) will be produced and mounted on the Special Collections website. At that point, the papers are made available to researchers in the Special Collections Reading Room in Hodges Library.

Is my donation tax deductible? Can you appraise my material?

In certain circumstances, it may be possible for a donor to take a tax deduction for the donation of a manuscript collection.  You are encouraged to speak with a tax accountant or attorney about this possibility.

The UT Libraries frequently commissions appraisals of gifted materials for the purpose of internal valuation.  If a donor requests a copy of the appraisal, a copy will be provided.  These appraisals are commissioned for internal valuation purposes only and not for any other purpose.  The appraisal may not be relied upon by the donor or by any other third party for any purpose, and the donor agrees to indemnify and hold harmless the University from any liability arising out of reliance upon the appraisal by donor or any third party acting on behalf of donor.

Who should I contact about donating materials to Special Collections?

University of Tennessee materials, contact Alesha Shumar
Great Smoky Mountains related materials, contact Anne Bridges or Ken Wise
All other materials, contact Jennifer Beals

The flagship campus of the University of Tennessee System and partner in the Tennessee Transfer Pathway.