Special Collections Acquisition Guidelines

See Library Gift in Kind policy page for additional information and contacts.

How does Special Collections acquire materials?

Materials are acquired through both donation and purchase.  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.  Purchases are funded by Special Collections acquisitions funds, endowment income, and donations.  Special Collections does not purchase materials from University of Tennessee employees.

What types of materials might Special Collections accept?

Materials are acquired in all formats, including print, audiovisual, and born digital materials.  Collections may be as small as a single item and as large as dozens of boxes.  Types of materials collected include letters and correspondence, diaries and memoirs, speeches, photographs and scrapbooks or records.

There is no need for donors 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.

Within the general scope of Tennesseanna, Special Collections focuses on select topics including the Civil War, presidencies of Andrew Jackson, Andrew Johnson, and James K. Polk, Tennessee imprints, Confederate imprints, Southeastern Native Americans, and music, literature, cinema, and performing arts of the eastern Tennessee region.  Special Collections has extensive holdings documenting the history and culture of the mountain regions of East Tennessee and Western North Carolina and the development of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.   The Modern Political Archive collects material from political leaders of Tennessee who had a major impact on the state during the modern era with a focus on those individuals who were elected or appointed to federal office. 

University Archives is the repository for the historically valuable records of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Materials documenting the history and legacy of the institution date from the chartering of the university in 1794 to the present.  In addition, the University Archives documents the careers and activities of prominent faculty, staff, alumni, and supporters of the university.  Materials are acquired through donation and voluntary transfer from university departments.

In a broader scope outside of the state of Tennessee, Special Collections acquires rare and unique materials related to scholarship, the history of bookmaking, printmaking, and contemporary artists’ books.  The department also works with the UT Center for the Study of War and Society to acquire the papers of veterans from World War I and II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War.

Current Collection Priorities include:

  • Contemporary Tennessee authors of fiction or poetry
  • Veterans who served in the Vietnam War
  • Materials related to traditionally underrepresented groups including Native Americans, African American, Hispanic Americans, and the LGBTQ+ community.

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 will be destroyed or can be returned to you, if requested. 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.

Will my materials be digitized?

The Libraries implement selective and strategic digitization projects so that more materials can be accessible to more researchers.  Digitized collections are made freely accessible online. It is extremely rare to digitize an entire collections because of the intensive resources required to do so.

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.