Knox Public Library to honor Steve Cotham 

Mary Pom ClaiborneDowntown, Our Town Leaders

Steve Cotham is quoted as saying, “I’m not a native Knoxvillian, but I feel like one.” The now-retired, long-time manager of the Calvin M. McClung Historical Collection and Knox County historian has worked hard to preserve the broader story of East Tennessee so that people all over this region can find their personal stories in documents, photographs, directories, maps and other resources.

His work harkens back to 1980 when he began his career as a cataloger for the collection. In 1986, he took the helm, and made impressive strides in growing the esteemed collection. At 4 p.m. on Wednesday, April 19, Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs and library officials will dedicate the Rare Book and Manuscript Reading Room in the East Tennessee History Center in his honor.

The honor is fitting. Here are just of a few of his accomplishments:

  • Oversaw the expansion of the East Tennessee History Center,almost doubling in size the original location of the historic Custom House
  • Tripled the holdings of books, periodicals, documents, and microfilm for researchers of East Tennessee and Appalachian history
  • Instigated the Calvin M. McClung Digital Collectionexpanding access to thousands of resources including the Jim Thompson photo collection, the Woman Suffrage materials, 1982 World’s Fair collection, and yearbooks from area schools
  • Grew McClung’s art collection with estimable works, all while continuing his research into the artists’ lives and work.
  • Under his tenure, the nonprofit Tennessee Archive of Moving Image and Soundfound a home here, and later would officially become the audio-visual wing of the collection

Steve Cotham is the author of four books and is a stalwart contributor to many area historical organizations. Few people have contributed more to the preservation of our collective story. Biographers, documentarians, researchers and genealogists rely on this collection to tell their stories. Join Knox County Public Library in honoring Steve Cotham.

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


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