East Tennessee History Center: a Model!

Lots of years ago I visited the McClung Collection in Knoxville TN and used the printed sources at the Lawson-McGhee Library across from the Hilton Hotel. And thought I was blessed to be there.

Then I had the chance to come back during the FGS Conference in mid-August.  What a treat was in store for my genealogy research!  I really was not prepared for the changes–and I have walked on air since I returned home.

Let me share with you my “what a great idea?” experience!

4 (count them)–FOUR historical facilities under one roof (including parts of several buildings and the original court building for Knox County):

  1. The East Tennessee Historical Society–established in 1834 to collect the history and its documents for what became 35 counties in east Tennessee.  They have provided historical programs and publications which we all depend on for all this time.  And continue to do it.
  2. The Calvin M. McClung Historical Collection–rare, original maps.  More than 600 manuscript collections, including 45 genealogical collections with more family files than you can search in a week.  Over 16,000 reels of microfilmed records and historical materials.  Branch Family History Center of the main Library in Salt Lake City with borrowing privileges.  Online genealogical databases including Pro-Quest’s Sanborn Maps–original maps for cities of Tennessee, including Knoxville over time.  Not to mention genealogies and printed genealogy sources for many Southern states.
  3. Knox County Archives–microfilm and original county records–deeds, wills, marriages, tax rolls, and court records.  With indexes created by genealogists and archivists so you can document ancestors faster and easier than ever before.
  4. The Museum of East Tennessee History–highlights of the people and their stories from all 35 counties.  A permanent exhibit is called Voices of the Land:  The People of East Tennessee.
  5. And more:  Lawson-McGhee Library around the corner and a block away, the Beck Center, and several branch libraries–are a part.

All maintained by friendly, knowledgeable staff set in place to help you trace your family in its context.

Our country, our awesome United States, is beset with budget problems at every level of government; and most privately-funded library facilities are facing similar challenges.  The Tennessee cooperative effort with public and private partners, who share space and funds for the public good, is a model.

Other states like Alabama and Ohio are launching similar shared facilities–just for us!  There are so many of us seeking our roots in person, by mail, and online, that we need a special place.  When we arrive in droves, as we do with a conference, it is a real challenge to meet our separate needs with a smile.

Please, gentle readers, visit often.  Make copies and buy books galore to keep them in business.  And suggest to those research facilities that you frequent, to check out the East Tennessee History Center–where much of it  is all housed under one roof.

Here is the part I like the best that I haven’t shared with you, yet:  All these parts belong to the Knox County Public Library system!

The public library system, in many states, cities, and counties, is under financial attack.  Pennsylvania librarians sued when they were told they had to reduce their hours 50% and let most of their trained staff go.

The Michigan Library, a combined library and archives housing millions of original records and innumerable other research items, has made peace with those who hold the purse–for now.

What is happening in your state?  In your city or town?  In your county?  In my city, the public library remodeled the bathrooms and added new windows and new electric hookups so the computers could run without breaking the circuit.  Seems the skate park was the funding priority.

As you watch your tax dollars being juggled–speak out for what is really significant.  And remember Knox County Tennessee.

Make no mistake.  The East Tennessee Historical Society is a leader in the field or state and local history, known across the nation for its exemplary work.

Terry L. Davis, Executive Director, American Association for State and Local History

Your favorite Tennessee genealogist, Arlene Eakle  http://arleneeakle.com

PS  And hats off to the East Tennessee government officials who agreed to share!

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