Eric Dawson, known to many East Tennesseans as the head of the Tennessee Archive of Moving Image and Sound, has been promoted to manager of the Calvin M. McClung Historical Collection. Dawson follows longtime manager, Steve Cotham, who retired after more than 40 years. The venerable McClung collection holds important photos, documents and ephemera including the famed Burns letter that helped secure the 19th amendment for woman’s right to vote. The McClung Collection is housed in East Tennessee History Center (601 S. Gay Street) and is part of the Knox County Public Library system.
In his tenure at TAMIS, Dawson made several archival films including “Suttree,” which debuted in June 2021 in a special collaboration with Big Ears Festival. His latest project, “Electric Appalachia,” will be presented at this year’s Big Ears Festival. He was the program coordinator for Knoxville Stomp, a festival celebrating the St. James’s recordings of 1929. He helped acquire many valuable archival audio, film and video collections and oversaw the preservation of important historic collections such as the films of Walther Barth, the Knoxville College Video Collections and the Vardy Community Film.
Dawson is a lifelong East Tennessean, born and raised in Bybee, Tennessee, with roots in the area stretching back to the 1700s and an ancestor who fought with General George Washington at Valley Forge. He professes to a lifetime love of history. He received his bachelor’s degree in English and master’s in information science from UTK and has worked with McClung/TAMIS for 10 years.
“For more than 100 years, the Calvin M. McClung Collection has been an unparalleled resource for those interested in learning about East Tennessee and Southern Appalachian culture and history. Its vast and unique holdings are utilized not only by local scholars and historians, but by researchers from around the world,” commented Dawson. “I am so excited to have the opportunity to serve in this position, and work alongside the fantastic, knowledgeable McClung staff as we build on the storied legacy of this indispensable institution.”
He is a member of the Association of Moving Image Archivists and serves on the Knoxville History Project board.
Mary Pom Claiborne is assistant director for marketing, communications and development for Knox County Public Library. She writes a Wednesday feature for KnoxTNToday.com.