UT Libraries Helps Launch New Digital Library of Tennessee Portal
July 2, 2019

The Digital Library of Tennessee (DLTN) committee recently announced the launch of its new research website, making Tennessee one of the first states with a localized portal of the Digital Public Library of America. The Tennessee portal brings together more than 100,000 digital representations of unique cultural heritage artifacts from throughout the state. The University of Tennessee Libraries has contributed approximately a quarter of the Tennessee portal’s records and formed partnerships across the state that helped make this portal possible.

Working in partnership with Tenn-Share and the Tennessee State Library and Archives, the UT Libraries acts as a service hub to the Digital Public Library of America. Since 2015, UT librarians and partner repositories have worked to identify primary sources from Tennessee libraries, archives, and museums and to collect descriptive records and thumbnail images of those items for contribution. This technical process makes each resource findable and provides information on proper usage of the object.

The new portal, available at tn.dp.la, links the user to these digitized primary sources—including maps, musical performances, photographs, newspapers, postcards, and oral histories—putting Tennessee resources at the forefront. The homepage highlights historical narratives that are supported by strong collections, such as the state’s role in the Civil Rights Movement, the Great War, and the ratification of the 19th amendment to the United States Constitution. While these materials are also available through the Digital Public Library of America, this new portal brings greater attention to the open access resources of the state and makes it easier for individuals to find Tennessee-specific materials.

Significant among the contributions of the UT Libraries is the Volunteer Voices collection: The UT Libraries digitized and hosts the materials of 63 libraries, archives, and museums in the state that did not have the technical capacity to do so themselves. The formation of Volunteer Voices and its partnerships was also influential in the creation of the Digital Library of Tennessee committee, strengthening statewide alliances in information sharing. 

Another contribution currently highlighted on the new homepage under “Vintage Postcards,” is UT’s Postcards from the Great Smoky Mountains collection. Meredith Hale, UT metadata librarian and DLTN representative, notes this collection as one of her favorites: “It does a great job of documenting America’s most-visited national park while also showing how the form of postcards has changed over time.”

Vintage postcard from the Great Smoky Mountains

Through digitization and descriptive records, the Digital Library of Tennessee is making rare and unique materials specific to Tennessee’s history centrally available to the public at large. “It has the power to introduce anyone, including independent researchers, elementary school students, and university students, to visual, textual, and auditory information to help them create meaningful arguments for their research and better understand their relationship to Tennessee,” said Hale. 

The Digital Library of Tennessee is the product of five years of collaboration among its partner repositories, which include the Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum, Knox County Public Library, Calvin M. McClung Historical Collection, Memphis Public Library, Middle Tennessee State University, Nashville Public Library, Rhodes College, Tennessee State Library and Archives, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, and the University of Tennessee.

The Digital Library of Tennessee is made possible with support from the University of Tennessee, Tennessee State Library and Archives, Tenn-Share, and the Digital Public Library of America. If you would like to learn more, including how to contribute your institution’s unique material, please visit Digital Library of Tennessee tn.dp.la/about.