The University of Tennessee University Libraries and Frank H. McClung Museum
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WPA/TVA Archaeological Photographs
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About This Project

In 2002, the Frank H. McClung and the University of Tennessee Libraries received a two-year grant from the Institute for Museum and Library Services to create an on-line database of information describing photographs taken by Works Progress Administration (WPA) workers of archaeological projects conducted in preparation for Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) dam construction in the 1930s.
Significance and Scope of the Documents

These are the most heavily-used document collections in each museum, being of interest to practicing archaeologists, physical anthropologists, and historians, who use them for basic research, scholarly publishing, and public interpretation (including lectures, exhibits, and publications for popular audiences); students (especially for thesis and dissertation research); other museums -- small (e.g., Heritage Museum of McMinn County, TN) and large (e.g., Chicago Art Institute) -- for exhibits and public programming; the media (e.g., the Emmy award-winning Heartland series on the Travel Channel); the general public (especially those with relatives who worked on the large WPA crews); and the Native American tribes concerned. Because the archaeological sites have since been flooded, these images and the associated field notes and artifacts are the only record of these sites that we will ever have. They are a unique, complete, and comprehensive collection of information concerning Native American habitation in the Southease in the pre-historic period

These photographs and field notes are permanently curated for the TVA by the Frank H. McClung Museum at the University of Tennessee, the William S. Webb Museum of Anthropology at the University of Kentucky, and the Alabama Museum of Natural History at the University of Alabama. Each state houses approximately 5,000 images for projects within its bounds. This arrangement has assured the preservation of the original images, but, because the collection is held in three different states, it is difficult to use it as one collection, to say nothing of the barriers of use for many people created by rules of access, and the restrictions imposed by preservation mandates.

Digital technology can allow expanded access to these historical materials. Users do not have to travel to the particular university or museum to view them; vulnerable originals do not need to be handled; and multiple users, including entire classes of students, can examine the same document simultaneously.

The documents and images included in this database were identified and selected by the curators, scholars and staff members in the participating institutions who were most familiar with their significance and previous use.

Work Process and Standards

Each photograph was scanned on a flatbed scanner at 400dpi, in color with a color depth of 24 bits. Digitial Library Federaltion Guidelines and Best Practices for digitial preservation of historical documents was used to determine the digitization standards for this project. Using this level of resolution and scanning in color most faithfully reproduces the original.

The original scans are non-compressed TIFF (Tagged Image File Format) format files, averaging 12 to 20 megabytes in size. The only image manipulation of the TIFF images was rotation and cropping. These high-resolution TIFF images are retained by the respective institutions for archival purposes.

From the TIFF images, we produced full-size and thumbnail JPEG images for use by the public. Some of the photographs are restricted-access only and special procedures are outlined below and on the database site.

Field notes for each photograph were transcribed using XML (Extensible Markup Language) with pointers between the JPEG photograph and the notes. In some instances related photographs are indicated in the field notes. The field notes have been standardized to search by specific location and other criteria.

This freely available database,* created from field notes and site maps linked to digital images of the photographs, is housed at the University of Tennessee Digital Library Center.

*The database includes a number of restricted-access images from the Alabama and Tennessee collections. Permission to view these images is required from the individual museum involved. Documentation providing specific reason for access and verifiable professional credentials are required before permission can be granted.

For Permission to View these restricted images, please contact, in writing, with appropriate documentation:

Dr. Lynne Sullivan, Curator of Archaeology, Frank H. McClung Museum (TN)

Eugene Futato, Sr. Archaeologist and Curator, Office of Archaeological Research (AL)

McClung Museum of Natural History and Culture
1327 Circle Park Drive
Knoxville, Tennessee

Phone: 865-974-2144

Digital Initiatives
647 John C. Hodges Library
Knoxville, Tennessee 37996

Phone: 865-974-2871