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University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Library – Special Collections

Location Description

The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Special Collections is responsible for acquiring, processing, digitizing, and preserving unique, primary source materials. In particular, the materials focus on the university, Chattanooga, the state of Tennessee, and the American South.

Special Collections is a team of three librarians and up to 25 student assistants, interns, and volunteers working in a collaborative environment that stresses a standards-based approach to the acquisition, processing, and digitization of rare books, manuscripts, and university archives. Special Collections consists of the George C. Connor Reading Room, the Joseph Jackson Visiting Scholar Room, digitization and processing room, and a climate-controlled secure stacks consisting of compact and fixed shelving and flat file cabinets. Special Collections houses more than 2,500 linear feet of manuscript and archival material and more than 13,000 books and theses. Additionally, Special Collections manages digital repositories powered by ArchivesSpace, CONTENTdm, and Digital Commons by working collaboratively with Library IT and Collections Services as well as campus partners and vendors.

Practicum Work Mode

On site

Semesters or Time Period Available

Ongoing, not limited to a specific semester


600 Douglas Street
Chattanooga, TN 37403


Carolyn Runyon Runyon
Director of Special Collections

Student Tasks

Practicum students play a critical role in Special Collections by helping the repository create digital collections, finding aids, and exhibits of cultural heritage resources. duties may include:
• arranging and describing archival collections;
• authoring biographical and historical notes that provide context for archival materials;
• creating finding aids in compliance with Describing Archives: A Content Standard (DACS) and local practices using ArchivesSpace;
• conducting and transcribing oral history interviews;
• creating descriptive metadata and developing digital collections using CONTENTdm;
• applying controlled vocabularies, including LCSH, LCNAF, AAT, and, to describe digital objects;
• curating web and physical exhibitions and creating exhibition panels and catalogs;
• authoring lesson plans and instructional materials, including video tutorials, featuring local primary sources for K-12 audiences;
• conducting research and writing narratives for grant applications;
• and developing Buzzfeed quizzes, blog posts, and other outreach initiatives.

Type of Mentoring Provided to the Student

Practica students help Special Collections achieve fulfill its mission by working on archival processing and description or digital capture and metadata projects, and outreach initiatives including exhibitions and programming. We create effective internships by collaborating with students to create clearly defined goals, offering feedback on projects and performance in weekly meetings, and providing opportunities for students to reflect on their experiences. Special Collections stresses a standards-based approach to digitization and description, and uses archival and digital asset management systems commonly adopted by galleries, libraries, archives, and museums (GLAMs) in the United States.

Practica students who successfully complete projects in Special Collections gain important transferable skills and exposure to professional software applications that help prepare them for graduate studies or careers in archival administration and records management.

Student Interaction With Others at the Location

Practica students in Special Collections typically work closely with one of the faculty archivists in Special Collections and the Director of Special Collections. They work in an open space with other interns and student assistants completing assignments in Special Collections.