Collection Development

The Special Collections acquires materials primarily through the acceptance of non-cash gifts that reflect the current interests and needs of the community and complements current Library collections, programs and goals in format, subject coverage, depth and philosophy to provide a balance of information, viewpoints and formats. In rare instances, the repository purchases material. Personnel in Special Collections, sometimes in collaboration with the Office of Development, formalize the transfer of legal title, copyright, literary property rights, and physical custody by completing a Deed of Gift as described in our Gifts and Donations policy.


The Special Collections unit of the Library at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga is the repository for the university’s collections of manuscripts, university records and publications, rare books and maps, theses and dissertations, and other archival material. The mission of Special Collections is to acquire, preserve, and provide equitable access to rich and inclusive cultural heritage resources that document Chattanooga, the Tennessee Valley, and the South as well as the history of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga (UTC). The repository supports a wide range of researchers including undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, members of the community, and other scholars whose work relies on primary source materials. The primary reasons Special Collections acquires materials are as follows:

  • To preserve the official records of administrators and administrative offices; academic programs and courses of instruction; and academic departments and committees, insofar as they have permanent historical value;
  • And to acquire, preserve, and provide access to a wide range of primary research materials in their original formats, including books, manuscripts, archives, photographs, moving images, sound, objects, and other items in support of the educational and research activities of various stakeholders.

Outreach and Access

The repository’s collection development policy is coupled with a commitment to outreach and access. Special Collections arranges and describes material according to leading practices and standards such as Describing Archives: A Content Standard (DACS) and Resource Description & Access (RDA) to make our resources discoverable. The repository is also committed to digital capture and curation, and makes thousands of digital objects openly and freely accessible online. Special Collections regularly provides tours and instruction sessions for courses taught at UTC and other local high schools, colleges and universities. Whenever possible, the repository collaborates with instructors to incorporate Special Collections resources into the curriculum at UTC. Further, Special Collections regularly curates exhibits for display in the Andrew Roth Grand Reading Room and George Connor Special Collections Reading Room located in the Library at UTC.


The Director of Special Collections leads collection development efforts in consultation with the Dean of the Library, Head of Collection Services, members of the faculty, and colleagues in the Library and Special Collections. The Director of the Special Collections, in accordance with prevailing standards and policies, coordinates with archivists and librarians in the repository to appraise materials for their intellectual and artifactual value and determine which materials are permanently retained.

Only the Dean of the Library and Director of Special Collections have the authority to accept gifts and sign gift agreements, including Special Collections' standard Deed of Gift. The Director of Special Collections may also advise potential donors to find other appropriate institutions. The Dean of the Library, Director of Special Collections, or other personnel in Special Collections may acknowledge gifts as appropriate based on the size of the gift.

Material Types

Special Collections collects physical and born-digital archival and published material, including, but not limited to books, journals, newspapers, yearbooks, annuals, oral histories, letters, diaries, maps, photographs, scrapbooks, manuscripts, archives, ephemeral materials, film, video, and a variety of other original formats. Emphasis is placed on acquiring items in their original states. Photocopies and digital surrogates of original materials are not accepted, unless they are acquired in addition to the original material. While the nature of different formats may require different methods of transfer and long-term care, the value of a given record is based on the information and evidence it provides, not on its format.

Special Collections collects authors' books in their first appearance. In general, this means the first edition in the country of the author, though preference is given to the first appearance in print. Facsimile editions of rare books are acquired, but sparingly. Items designated as “fine art” may be transferred to the University’s Permanent Collection of Art managed by the Cress Gallery. Rare books are evaluated by such factors as research value, rarity, condition, unusual format or size, unique ownership history, and subject matter. Age is also one of the factors that is used to evaluate historical significance.

Special Collections does not actively collect three dimensional objects, including, but not limited to paintings, sculptures (or other three-dimensional works of art), and furniture or furnishings, costumes, medals, coins, stamps, badges, emblems, decorations, personal effects, or any other objects or materials that more properly belong in museums. In most cases, Special Collections will not accept three dimensional objects; however, the repository makes exceptions on a case-by-case basis, particularly if the objects are accompanied by significant archival material. If the objects are part of a larger collection of archival material, Special Collections uses discretion as to whether or not to accept such objects as part of the collection.


Special Collections acquires interrelated collections of depth in various fields that document the intellectual, multicultural, social, political, environmental, and economic aspects of the region. The repository does not limit the collecting scope by language or date, although the primary language of the collection is English and holdings are primarily dated from 1860 to present. Special Collections limits the geographic scope of materials primarily to Chattanooga, Hamilton County, and the Tennessee Valley. Most broadly, Special Collections acquires materials that document the American South, but the repository focuses holdings related to the American South primarily to books and generally does not collect archival material beyond the locus of Chattanooga, Hamilton County, and the Tennessee Valley.


Existing collection strengths include Jean Miles Catino and Emma Bell Miles papers and William Crutchfield watercolor paintings.

Current collecting focuses on the papers of Chattanooga artists, including filmmakers, and musicians.


Existing collection strengths include the Robert Sparks Walker papers and American Chestnut oral histories.

Current collecting focuses on the history of environmentalism in Chattanooga and the impact of the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) on the region.


Existing collection strengths include Jean Miles Catino and Emma Bell Miles papers, Nancy Dugger papers, and William Berger Collection of Southern Fiction.

Current collecting focuses on the papers of Chattanooga literary figures and signed, first editions of books authored by members of the Fellowship of Southern Writers.

Manufacturing and Labor

Existing collection strengths include Jeffrey L. Brown collection of business records and Cavalier Corporation records

Current collecting focuses on the history of labor in Chattanooga, including local textile and steel mills.

Politics and Government

Existing collection strengths include the Marilyn Lloyd papers and James B. Frazier, Jr. papers.

Current collecting focuses on Chattanooga politicians, as well as materials about state and local government officials and women in politics.

Printing and Publishing

Existing collection strengths include the Charles Hubbard Collection of Rare Books and the Barry Moser Collection of Illustrations and Fine Bindings.

Current collecting focuses on fine printing, graphic arts, and books as art objects, including letterpress and handmade books by Chattanooga artists. Printed materials of intrinsic or extrinsic value are transferred from the general stacks to repository at the discretion of the Director of Special Collections.


Existing collection strengths include the Chattanooga Shofar newsletters and Ralph W. Hood and W. Paul Williamson field recordings.

Current collecting focuses on Judaism in Chattanooga, the Appalachian serpent-handling tradition, and African American churches.

Social Justice

Existing collection strengths include the Raymond B. Witt papers and Chattanooga gun violence activism oral histories.

Current collecting focuses on historic and contemporary social change and reform in Chattanooga.


Existing collection strengths include the Chattanooga and Lookout Mountain postcards and Herman Lamb photographs.

Current collecting focuses on the history of the Scenic City, including local tourist attractions such as Rock City, Lincoln Park, and the Chattanooga Choo Choo.

University Administration

Existing collection strengths include the University of Chattanooga Board of Trustees minutes and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga commencement programs.

Current collecting focuses on records, documents, and reference materials pertaining to the history of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and antecedents: Chattanooga University, Grant University, and University of Chattanooga. Special Collections does not collect student records, course work, syllabi, or alumni records.

University Community

Existing collection strengths include University Echo newspapers, the George Connor papers, and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Collection of Alumni Authors.

Current collecting focuses on University of Tennessee at Chattanooga papers and publications of students, alumni, faculty, and administrators. This focus also extends to the papers of individuals and organizations where the subject matter of the collection is particularly relevant to the history of the University.

Physical Condition

Because Special Collections does not have dedicated preservation and conservation resources, it is vital that we only acquire materials in the best possible physical condition. Exceptions may be made in instances where the scarcity of an item in any condition warrants accepting a less-than-perfect specimen. In general, the costs involved in repairing and storing damaged materials are beyond the limited means of our budget, so we must decline imperfect copies. Special Collections does not accept materials that are irreparably damaged or infested by insects or mold.


Materials are defined as deaccessioned when they are removed formally and permanently from Special Collections, or when there is a legal transfer of ownership or a permanent disposal. The deaccession of materials in manuscript, archival, and rare book collections is governed by different principles from those for general research collections. Because of the primacy of preserving archival materials in their original format and the role of rare book and archival repositories for cultural history, Special Collections carefully assesses, or archivally appraises, all materials before accepting them to lessen the likelihood of deaccessioning. Valid reasons remain, however, for deaccessioning materials held in Special Collections. Any items removed from Special Collections will be discarded, destroyed, donated, or transferred to another suitable repository. The following types of materials are subject to removal from the repository:

  • Materials that no longer meet the collection development criteria.
  • Materials that become unstable in physical nature and pose a health risk, such as those affected by mold, water damage, pests, or other unforeseen conditions.


Given the limitations on storage space for our collections, Special Collections does not accept duplicate copies of items already held in the repository. Exceptions may be made in instances where a second copy has unique features, but the general rule is against adding redundant copies of published works. In the case of UTC publications and ephemera, we retain a limited number of copies of each item and are generally unable to accept donations of additional copies of yearbooks, class albums, student publications, etc.

Cooperative Agreement

Special Collections does not acquire material that is related to a specific person, institution, or organization that is already comprehensively covered by another repository.

Abandoned Gifts

Special Collections handles “abandoned” gifts (i.e. unsolicited deposits left without any indication of the donor’s name, contact information, and/or affiliation) following the guidelines stated in this policy. Once physically transferred to Special Collections, the depositor transfers full, free and unencumbered title to the property.