Updates and Information on Coronavirus (COVID-19)
Skip to main content

KNOXVILLE — With help from a nearly $250,000 grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the University of Tennessee Libraries recently completed a project that preserves the history of education and arts literacy in the Great Smoky Mountains.

“From Pi Beta Phi to Arrowmont: Bringing Education and Economic Development to the Great Smoky Mountains, 1910-2004,” is a digital project with a fully searchable Web site that includes almost 4,000 images of articles, photos, scrapbooks and letters. The site also has a 360-degree interactive gallery of art pieces from the Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts, historical essays and curriculum for K-8 students.

The Web site is http://www.lib.utk.edu/arrowmont.

The Pi Beta Phi fraternity for women opened the Pi Beta Phi Settlement School in Gatlinburg in 1912, beginning the fraternity’s involvement in education, health care, arts and crafts literacy and commerce in the Smokies. It later became the Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts.

“This project chronicles the history of Gatlinburg, but it also tells a very important story about the history of women,” said Anne Bridges, history librarian and co-principal investigator for the project. “The Pi Phis created professional opportunities for themselves when there were limited prospects for bright, highly educated, highly motivated women.”

May Lansfield Keller, grand president of the fraternity, was sent to East Tennessee in 1910 to find a location for a settlement school as a philanthropic outreach project by the fraternity to celebrate its 50th anniversary.

At the time, the U.S. Bureau of Education had designated Southern Appalachia as “most in need of education,” and the state of Tennessee was open to support and assistance from benevolent organizations.

The Pi Beta Phi Settlement School began integrating arts education into the curriculum in 1945. In the 1960s when the Sevier County Board of Education took control of education in the area, the fraternity changed the focus of the school to fine arts and crafts education. Today, Arrowmont attracts a diverse group of students, including professional artists, from all over the country.

The digital project began in 2005 and was supported by matching funds from UT.

Bridges and co-principal investigator Ken Wise, UT Libraries associate professor, were joined in the project by the Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts and the Pi Beta Phi Elementary School in Gatlinburg.

The project complements the UT Libraries’ Digital Library Center and the Great Smoky Mountains Regional Project.

“This project not only tells an important story, but it illustrates the role of the emerging virtual library,” said Barbara Dewey, dean of UT Libraries. “The collaborative work that made this project possible is an amazing example of sharing unique resources and expertise.”

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.

Other staff on the grant were Steve Davis, research coordinator; Tim Lepczyk, digital coordinator; Melanie Feltner-Reichert, metadata librarian; Anthony Smith, Digital Library Center coordinator; Bridger Dyson-Smith, student digitization assistant; Kate Stepp, digital coordinator; Aaron Purcell, university archivist; and Jody de Ridder, Digital Library Center programmer.


Elizabeth Davis, UT Media Relations, (865) 974-5179, elizabeth.davis@tennessee.edu

Anne Bridges, (865) 974-0017, abridges@utk.edu

Ken Wise, (865) 974-2359, kwise@utk.edu