The University of Tennessee Libraries’ Digital Library Initiatives department and The Great Smoky Mountains Regional Project are now sponsoring the Thompson Brothers Digital Photograph Collection, an online collection of stunning images of the Great Smoky Mountains.
Prominent Knoxville-based photographers in the 1920s through the 1940s, brothers Jim and Robin Thompson began their careers at the family business, Thompson Brothers Commercial Photographers. The company was started by the Thompson brothers’ father in 1902 and continues operating in Knoxville today as Thompson Photo Products.
Except for the aerial photographs which were shot by Robin Thompson, most of the images were taken by Jim Thompson, an avid hiker and a founding member of the Smoky Mountains Hiking Club. Many of his photographs were taken while hiking with fellow club member and amateur photographer Albert "Dutch" Roth. So well did Thompson capture the beauty of the Smoky Mountains that his photographs were in demand as illustrations in popular magazines and technical journals as well as in reports to the federal government encouraging the establishment of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
The Thompson Brothers Digital Photograph Collection began as a partnership between the UT Libraries and the Calvin McClung Collection of the Knox County Public Library to digitize the Smokies photographs held in McClung’s Thompson Photograph Collection and UT Special Collections’ Albert G. (Dutch) Roth Photo Album, 1925-1937. In the interim, the curator of the Arnold Arboretum Horticultural Library Archives at Harvard University contacted Anne Bridges and Ken Wise, co-directors of the Smokies project, saying the library had a Thompson photo album in their collection. After a few e-mail exchanges, the curator offered to loan the album for digitizing and pointed Bridges and Wise to a second Thompson photo album at Tutt Special Collections at Colorado College. The curator of the Tutt Special Collections agreed to loan their album to be digitized.
Although similar in content, the albums contain unique images not available in the McClung and UT Collections. Upon receiving the albums, the Digital Library Initiatives staff scanned each album and set to work on delivering the materials to the public in an online format that would preserve the integrity of the images. The online collection now features the two photograph albums with the single image collection to follow.
The breathtaking photography of the Thompson brothers is now available online at dlc.lib.utk.edu/thompson. Please visit us on the Web for more information: Digital Library Initiatives at www.lib.utk.edu/dlc and The Great Smoky Mountains Regional Project at www.lib.utk.edu/smokies.