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KNOXVILLE — Some Tennesseans were notable figures in U.S. history — Davy Crockett and Presidents Andrew Jackson, Andrew Johnson, and James K. Polk, to name a few.

But from the earliest frontier settlements to Civil War battles to Civil Rights sit-ins, the first 200 years of Tennessee history moved forward on the considerable contributions of countless less famous, though equally notable, citizen actions.

The University of Tennessee Libraries is about to make it easier to plumb the depths of Tennessee’s detailed history by digitizing 10,000 significant Tennessee historical items held in repositories across the state, in institutions large and small.

The project will be funded by one of only 11 national grants from the Institute of Museum and Library Services specifically designed to build digital resources. It’s UT Libraries’ largest federal grant ever for this kind of project. The project begins December 1.

IMLS gave UT $928,000 to begin the $1.8 million project called “Growth of Democracy in Tennessee.”

The collection will be the largest public database of Tennessee history and will be accessible to school children and scholars alike.

“Documenting the past 200 years of Tennessee’s cultural, social, political, and intellectual history is no small feat,” said Aaron Purcell, interim assistant head of special collections at UT and one of the grant’s principal investigators. “By using documents from institutions across the state we can provide access to materials that many people wouldn’t otherwise have a chance to see.

“By gathering materials from smaller repositories, we hope to provide local ties to larger historical periods that may seem very distant or foreign. A student in Maury County, for example, will be able to see how their hometown played a significant role in Tennessee’s history,” Purcell said.

The materials will be posted on the existing Volunteer Voices Web site at http://www.volunteervoices.org and integrated into the state’s public school history curriculum.

The site is part of TENN-SHARE, a group of 450 Tennessee libraries and information agencies of all types and sizes that encourages resource sharing. The group also sponsors the Tennessee Electronic Library.

“The IMLS grant allows us not only to improve the research environment for UT professors and students, but to extend our Libraries’ expertise into the fiber of each and every Tennessee county,” said Chancellor Loren Crabtree. “Everyone with computer access may learn about Tennessee history in detail. And, the positive ties with other Tennessee libraries we continue to strengthen through this project will certainly advance other intellectual projects we undertake,” he said.

UT’s partner institutions in the project are Middle Tennessee State, Knox County Public Library, East Tennessee Historical Society, Tennessee State Library and Archives, University of Memphis, Memphis and Shelby County Public Library, Tennessee State, Vanderbilt, and Brentwood Public Library.

The partners will gather materials from their collections and from smaller libraries, archives, and historical societies across Tennessee. In the process of gathering and scanning materials, project leaders will provide training, support, and grant resources to participating institutions.

“National Leadership Grants help the libraries and museums that receive them, but have positive ramifications across the country,” said Mary L. Chute, acting director of IMLS. “That’s because the funded projects are designed to be national models that enable museums and libraries to advance innovation and promote the idea of learning for a lifetime.

“Each project serves a nationally recognized purpose such as promoting literacy, advancing science and technology, and preserving art, culture and history,” said Chute.

The Association of Research Libraries ranks UT Libraries 27th among public research institutions and 45th among all academic research libraries. The UT Libraries supports more than 20,000 undergraduate and 6,000 graduate students in 400 academic programs with 2.3 million volumes and 2.8 million non-print items in their collections, as well as database access to thousands of electronic resources.

The UT Libraries provides reference and instructional services, public and cultural programs, technological and media resources, and subject liaisons in a variety of disciplines while promoting information literacy.

For more information about UT Libraries, visit http://www.lib.utk.edu.

The Institute of Museum and Library Services is an independent federal grant-making agency dedicated to creating and sustaining a nation of learners by helping libraries and museums serve their communities.

For more information about IMLS, visit http://www.imls.gov.

Aubrey Mitchell (865) 974-6600
Aaron Purcell (865) 974-3674
Eileen Maxwell (202) 606-8339