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In recognition of Knoxville’s 225th anniversary, UT’s McClung Museum of Natural History and Culture opens Knoxville Unearthed: Archaeology in the Heart of the Valley, an exhibition exploring the city’s heritage as seen through archaeological discoveries.

The exhibit opens September 17 and runs through January 8, 2017.

Cistern excavations at the Old City Hall in Knoxville.
Cistern excavations at the Old City Hall in Knoxville.

Knoxville Unearthed explores the city’s heritage through archaeological findings buried below the city’s parking lots, alleyways, and nearby farms. Artifacts unearthed in and around Knoxville will be presented with historic images and maps to portray Knoxville’s first families and the everyday people who transformed this frontier town into the largest urban center in East Tennessee.

Featuring dozens of artifacts from Cherokee trade beads and early architectural features to fine porcelain and food remains, the exhibition illuminates the lives of Knoxvillians. Historical archaeology provides unique access to the unwritten histories of working-class citizens, women, children, and ethnic groups based on objects of daily life.

“Most people think that archaeological excavations are only done in distant lands and on exotic cultures, but the reality is that archaeology can and has contributed greatly to our understanding of local history,” said Tim Baumann, co-curator of Knoxville Unearthed and curator of archaeology at the McClung Museum. “The majority of people that have lived and died in Knoxville have left very few written records on their everyday lives. Archaeology provides a way to document these people from the material objects that they left behind. This exhibition displays for the first time a summary of archaeological research in Knoxville, at the Heart of the Valley.”

A 1790s pearlware teapot with a Chinese design unearthed from United States Indian Agent for the Southwest Territory David Henley's office in downtown Knoxville.
A 1790s pearlware teapot with a Chinese design unearthed from United States Indian Agent for the Southwest Territory David Henley’s office in downtown Knoxville.

Excavations at historic house museums including the Blount Mansion, Marble Springs and Ramsey House will be highlighted, as well as explorations of Knoxville’s industrial past at the Weaver Pottery site. The exhibit concludes by stressing the importance of historic preservation and learning from our past in order to guide Knoxville’s future.

The co-curator of the exhibit is Charles Faulkner, distinguished professor of humanities in the Department of Anthropology.

Exhibition programming will feature a “Down and Around Knoxville” Stroller Tour for parents, caregivers, and their young children at 10:00 a.m. on October 3, and free “Can You Dig It?” Family Fun Day in honor of National Archaeology and Fossil Days from 1:30 to 5:00 p.m. October 16.

Several exhibition-related lectures are also planned. Baumann and Faulkner will give a talk about the exhibition at 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday, September 20. Well-known Knoxville journalist and author Jack Neely will present “Subterranean Knoxville: The Buried Narrative of a Distracted City” at 2:00 p.m. on Sunday, October 30. Knoxville historic preservation will be the topic of a talk by Kim Trent, director of Knox Heritage, at 2:00 p.m. on Sunday, November 6.

Visit the exhibit page for more exhibition and programming details.

The exhibition is presented by Visit Knoxville, the City of Knoxville, UT’s Ready for the World Initiative, McCarty Holsaple McCarty, and Aramark. Additional support is provided by Knox County and the Arts and Heritage Fund.

The McClung Museum is located at 1327 Circle Park Drive. Museum admission is free, and the museum’s hours are 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday to Saturday and 1:00 to 5:00 p.m. on Sundays. Groups may schedule tours by calling 865-974-2144 or e-mailing museum@utk.edu. Free two-hour museum parking passes are available from the parking information building at the entrance to Circle Park Drive on weekdays by request. Free parking is available on Circle Park Drive on a first-come, first-served basis on weekends. Free public transportation to the museum is also available via the Knoxville Trolley Vol Line.

Additional parking information is available at http://mcclungmuseum.utk.edu/visit/parking.

For more information about the McClung Museum and its collections and exhibits, visit http://mcclungmuseum.utk.edu.

C O N T A C T :

Timothy Baumann (865-974-0742, tbaumann@utk.edu)

Catherine Shteynberg (865-974-6921, cshteynb@utk.edu)