Founded in 1959, Special Collections at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville began in one room of the James D. Hoskins Library with a core collection of early British, European, and American books. During the 1960s, the library expanded with two building additions and the acquisition of the University Archives. In 2009, Special Collections relocated to the John C. Hodges Library. Soon after, in 2011, the Modern Political Archives officially became part of Special Collections, and in 2012, the Great Smoky Mountain Project moved to the department. Most recently, Special Collections underwent a renovation of its reading room including the addition of an instruction classroom and exhibition space in the library galleria.
Newly renamed the Betsey B. Creekmore Special Collections and University Archives, the repository includes rare books, manuscripts, University Archives, and the Modern Political Archives. The rare book collection contains over 60,000 titles, mostly humanities, with over 1300 published before 1700, 2,700 between 1700-1800, 16,000 from 1800-1900, 53,000 from 1900-2000, and the rest from 2000-present. The manuscript collection contains approximately 6,000 linear feet of archival documents primarily relating to Tennessee and the Southeast. The University Archives maintains the institutional legacy of the University and serves as the official repository for the University of Tennessee, with materials deposited on a voluntary basis and totalling close to 5,000 linear feet of records. The Modern Political Archives contains approximately 4,500 linear feet of archival material representing political leaders of Tennessee who have had a major impact on the state during the modern era (1945 – present). MPA collections are housed and serviced in the Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy.
With 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, Native Southeastern American history, and music, literature, cinema, and performing arts of the eastern Tennessee region. The Great Smoky Mountains Regional Project acquires and preserves materials in all formats, documenting the history and culture of the mountain regions of East Tennessee and Western North Carolina. Recently the library has developed a collection related to the history of moonshine and distilling in the region as well.
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. An important acquisition has been the Shaheen Antiquarian Bible Collection, compiled by professor Naseeb Shaheen, a scholar who studied biblical references in Shakespearean literature. In addition, a strong collection of medieval manuscript facsimiles has been developed to support teaching in the School of Art and the Marco Institute for Medieval and Renaissance Studies. 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.
Catalogued materials are discoverable through the library catalogue. Manuscript materials are processed with EAD encoded finding aids and are searchable through SCOUT (Special Collections Online at UT). In addition, a number of digital collections are accessible through the website. www.lib.utk.edu/special