Digital collections offer pictures of the past

Mary Pom ClaiborneOur Town Youth

The Calvin M. McClung Historical Collection is a highlight of the East Tennessee History Center, 601 S. Gay Street, Knoxville. Our digital collection is an online archive of images from the larger collection. This website makes it easy and fun to research, view and find compelling digital images and artifacts from our rich East Tennessee history.

The history of East Tennessee – the complex narratives of its land and its peoples – are preserved and interpreted at the East Tennessee History Center. The award-winning research facility and museum is the result of a public-private partnership between Knox County Public Library and the East Tennessee Historical Society.

The heart of ETHC is its collections, representing all of East Tennessee’s 35 counties. You are invited to explore ETHC’s resources and find your place in the past. There is no charge to visit the ET History Center.

Admission is charged, however, at Museum of East Tennessee History, sponsored by the East Tennessee Historical Society. Admission is $10 for adults, $8 for seniors 55 and over, and free for children 16 and under. A $6 per person group rate is available for adult groups of 10 or more. Admission is free each Sunday, and ETHS members always receive free admission.

The digital collection is online – open 24/7 and viewed from your own home or office.

Here are a couple of notable components:

The Thompson Photograph Collection

James E. “Jim” Thompson (1881-1976) was one of Knoxville’s pioneer commercial and professional photographers. He captured a rich visual legacy of East Tennessee from 1907 to 1960. This growing digital collection will eventually contain 10,000 images covering the years from the early 1920s to mid-1930s.

The Thompson Photograph Collection includes an estimated 75,000 negatives, providing a rich visual legacy of Knoxville and East Tennessee from early-to mid-1900s. Preservation printing of these negatives has been the major focus of the McClung Historical Collection for two decades. Jim Thompson and his younger brother Robin Thompson were business partners from 1920-26 as Thompson Brothers. Both men were pioneer commercial photographers. By the late 1920s, Jim Thompson’s photographs (Jim Thompson Co.) and those of his brother (Robin Thompson Inc.) were appearing in local and national commercial publications.

Great Smoky Mountains Photo Collection – Thompson Brothers

Jim Thompson and Robin Thompson loved to hike and were pioneers in documenting the beauty of the Great Smoky Mountains in photographs in the 1910s and 1920s, which were used to help promote the creation of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

This collection contains pictures that show the majesty of the Smoky Mountains and the authenticity of the people who lived there. With titles such as “Have you heard this one?” and “Across Huggins Hell,” it is easy to become lost in these photographs. There are aerial shots and a spectacular, hand-tinted photo of azaleas blooming on Gregory Bald.

Mary Pom Claiborne is assistant director for marketing, communications and development for Knox County Public Library


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