- Associated Press - Sunday, December 14, 2014

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - The Tennessee Valley Authority is sponsoring a project that aims to digitize photographs, letters and other research material about Native American items that were uncovered beginning in the 1930s, when TVA dams were constructed.

The Knoxville News Sentinel (https://bit.ly/1vPBClX) reports modern technology is giving the items at the University of Tennessee’s McClung Museum a more secure future.

In addition to scanning documents, letters, slides and photographs, the original items are being put into more protective storage.

“Up until now, they haven’t been preserved properly,” said McClung Museum curator and UT professor Tim Baumann. “We are working to try to preserve those, not only to take care of them, but also to try to make them more accessible to the UT students and faculty.”

Many of the items were collected through the efforts of UT professors Madeline Kneberg Lewis and her husband, Tom Lewis. The couple worked with TVA, which still owns the items.

Baumann said digitizing and preserving materials will have various uses, including allowing an out-of-town professional researcher to better view the museum’s collection and allowing someone to find what appears to be an arrowhead to compare it to the ones at the museum.

“We also hope to develop a K-12 educational program that would be a companion with the exhibit gallery,” Baumann said. “That’s really where we need to expand the accessibility of the collection - how they can learn about history in our backyard.”

TVA archaeologist Michaelyn Harle said the agency is glad to help sponsor the massive project.

“It’s a daunting task, and thank God for partnerships with the University of Tennessee and the University of Alabama,” she said.

Lab assistant Hillary Waller, who has been working on digitizing slides and documents, says the work can be tedious but is also rewarding.

“I really enjoy knowing I make an impact on the preservation of artifacts, knowing that these can be utilized for researchers down the road and knowing it will be more utilized,” she said.

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Information from: Knoxville News Sentinel, https://www.knoxnews.com

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