Vendors and Digitization

On Tuesday, May 11, I dropped off some sound and video recording to a professional digitization service in Atlanta, GA. I dropped off these materials so that I could ensure they securely made it to the facility. The materials we dropped off at the digitization service included oral histories with the Derryberrys, faculty members, WWII veterans, Vietnam War veterans, miners from Fentress County, and the radio show “Cumberland Viewpoint” with Dave Johnson.

Intern Rhyannon Karney working with digitization equipment for photographs and slides

Having archival materials digitized by a vendor is often the best choice for an archive or even an individual. Digitization is a timely and costly process. We often treat obsolete media format playback as if this is the last time the media will be played in its original format. Many times, after playback, these media may never be able to be played again due to their fragility or the inability to find a playback equipment such as film projectors. Professional vendors know the special care and needs of these fragile, unique materials which all require different care. Some videotapes even need baking, which temporarily restores them for digitization.

Materials we delivered included reel to real audio, cassette tapes, 8 mm film, 16 mm film, Umatic videotape, Hi 8 videocassettes, VHS-C, DV and mini DV, and digital videotapes. Maintaining playback equipment for these many formats is costly and requires professional staff and time to operate all the equipment.

Spoof image of Megan Atkinson on movie poster. Photo credit Chuck Sutherland.

This will save us valuable time, but that is not to say there is no work on our end. We selected the media and will need to provide descriptive information for all the items (many of which have not been heard in over 70 years) so they are discoverable. The digitized media then needs storage in a preservation software so that it does not meet the demise its physical format did. Digital materials, if not cared for properly, can meet the same demise as the older media formats!

When I set out for Atlanta, I was entirely unaware of the potential for gas shortages, but I soon found out when I arrived with an empty gas tank. It took 2 days to find gas so I could make the trip back to Tennessee, and I was wondering if I was going to be able to get back when I planned. I sat in line watching gas stations run out. This prompted my friend Chuck Sutherland to doctor the comedic movie parody image. Despite the trouble, the materials were delivered and I made it home. Stay tuned for the availability of these materials in our digital collections (!

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New Exhibit Explores the History of Black Students and Employees at Tennessee Tech

By Hannah O’Daniel McCallon

The Tennessee Tech University Archives’ newest digital exhibit is now live! “Imagine Going Half a Day and Not Seeing Anybody That Looks Like You”: A History of Black Students & Employees at Tennessee Tech provides a survey of the Black history of the university from its founding in 1915 through the present day.

Photograph of two Tennessee Tech cafeteria employees working on December 9, 1964.

Tech was founded as a racially segregated, public institution in 1915. By the 1920s, African Americans worked at the college, but the administration relegated them to low-paying employment in the cafeteria. Tech was the last higher education institution in the Tennessee Board of Regents system to desegregate. Leona Lusk Officer’s enrollment in 1964 opened the door for Black students at the university.

The exhibit provides snapshots of some of the earliest Black employees and students at the university. It traces the founding and activism of historically Black student organizations on campus. The exhibit contextualizes changes in the campus climate in statewide and national events. It features over 175 photographs, oral histories, clippings, flyers, and other documents.

The exhibit was a collaboration with the Tennessee Tech University Office of Multicultural Affairs and University Advancement for the celebration of the 30th Anniversary of the Leona Lusk Officer Black Cultural Center on campus. We curated a total of three digital and one in-person exhibits for the anniversary.

The curation of the exhibits began with research in June 2020. Assistant Archivist Hannah O’Daniel McCallon worked on the exhibits nearly full-time alongside regular reference duties. Archives student worker Rhyannon Karney assisted with digitization and research during the fall 2021 semester.

Photograph of a student studying outside the Roaden University Center on April 13, 1988.

Most of the known resources on Black students and employees held in the Archives represent the viewpoint of white administrators, staff, and students. Student volunteers in the RACE PLUS program helped fill the gap in our collections by conducting oral histories with Black alumni from November 2020 to January 2021. We hope to continue conducting oral histories this summer through a paid internship. The transfer of records from the Office of Multicultural Affairs to the Archives in 2020 also was crucial for documenting the Black campus community from the 1990s to 2020.

Photograph of baseball player Morris Irby running to round third base in a home game against Eastern Kentucky University in May 1970.

To support the RACE PLUS students in their background research for their interviews and the exhibit research, the Archives digitized pages from The Oracle student newspaper and Eagle yearbook that related to the Black campus community. Other collections that were useful for exhibit research included records from the Office of Communications and Marketing, Dean of Students, President’s Office, Photo Services, University Assembly, Tennessee Board of Regents and Tennessee Higher Education Commission collection, and Tech Times.

Staff digitized most of the items that informed the exhibit. About 175 items are included in the exhibit, while over 2,000 items relevant for researching the Black campus community are available on our new digital collections website. Direct links to individual items can also be found in the bibliography.

Materials of note include:

We are so grateful for the alumni who shared their memories with us, the students who volunteered to conduct the oral history interviews, the Office of Multicultural Affairs and Dr. Robert Owens for reviewing and suggesting edits to the exhibits, and Alumni Center staff who helped us make the initial connections with alumni.

The exhibit formally opened on April 21, 20201. It can be viewed at:

If you would like to print and display the flyer for the exhibit, it can be downloaded at:

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“What Affects One Group Affects All of Us”: Black Student Activism at Tennessee Tech

by Hannah O’Daniel McCallon

Photograph of the exhibit case on the top floor of the Roaden University Center
Group photograph of the Black Student Organization (BSO) in December 1971.

The Archives’s newest exhibit is now open in the Multicultural Affairs’s case on the top floor of the University Center! “What Affects One Group Affects All of Us”: Black Student Activism at Tennessee Tech highlights the range of Black student activism from 1968 to 2020. Students have pushed for the university and the broader community to respect the humanity, needs, and culture of Black students and people. The exhibit displays photographs of events and clippings from student publications written by Black students.

Black students have engaged in activism through many different forms. Beginning with the Black Student Organization in 1968, students pressured the university to actively recruit Black students and uphold their right to receive a public education; encouraged students to take pride in Black culture and history through lectures, coffeehouses, and plays; and served the broader Putnam County community through voter-registration drives, food drives, and health clinics. Students used university-wide forums, The Oracle student newspaper, and the Eagle yearbook to draw attention to racial injustice. They also have organized marches and demonstrations to bring attention to ongoing civil rights issues in the United States and abroad.

The exhibit is part of the Office of Multicultural Affairs’s celebration of the 30th anniversary of the Leona Lusk Officer Black Cultural Center. Our last two digital exhibits for the anniversary can be browsed here. Keep your eyes out later this spring for another digital exhibit on the history of Black students and employees at Tech! For more on 30th Anniversary events, check out the website here.

For those who can’t attend in person, the posters for the exhibit and a hyperlinked list of the items on display are available here:

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Letter from the University Archivist

This “Archives with Atkinson” article is released after our traditional Homecoming here at Tennessee Tech. It is also the 90th homecoming at Tech and may be the most unique one we had to date. No live concerts, no in-person Golden Grad Reunion, no homecoming parade?! Everything seems unprecedented and nothing is what it was one year ago.

And that is just homecoming.

But, when I think of what we actually did do this year, I realize we did everything we do every year and more. We likely reached more people than in the past with a large shift to improving online access to our collections. We revised our 2020-2021 goals to meet the needs of the pandemic, but still provide the best and improved service to patrons. We decided that we could do this with better access to our records online, including better catalog records, better descriptions for digitized materials, collecting current digital records, and the implementation of online exhibits. With better online access, we are reaching individuals who may have never found the Archives or used our materials.  

This is the most 2020 photograph I could take.  A selfie, with a mask, and on a zoom meeting. The only thing missing is my cat.

Although we did not attend an in-person Golden Grad Reunion, we scanned hundreds of photographs and made them available online so anyone can see them. We created an exhibit for Big Name Entertainment in person and online, so we reached patrons who do not typically come to campus. We also assisted with the Leona Lusk Officer Black Cultural Center’s 30th Anniversary, researching and curating two online exhibits and creating a new oral history program for the Center. 

While we social distanced and did not see people in person, our use of technology enabled us to collaborate and share more than any year prior, reaching people in new and different ways.  I mentioned University Advancement and the Black Cultural Center, but we also worked with the College of Human Ecology and Women’s Center on a suffrage exhibit, the School of Music on performance storage, Freshmen Orientation for SOAR, the Department of Chemistry on exhibits for the new lab sciences building, and the Office of Research and the College of Graduate Studies on preserving reports and theses. In the community, we exhibited at the Cookeville History Museum and City Hall. We assisted the community by reuniting survivors of the tornado with over 2000 photographs lost in the March 3tornado. We also collected personal memories of the tornado and pandemic for future patrons to study. While we shared many materials, we also continued efforts to ensure we preserved materials from today for the future. All of this was done by our dedicated employees, student workers, interns, volunteers, and numerous collaborators.

Marvin attended many meetings and assisted with many archive projects during quarantine.

We are grateful to the University and community for their support and opportunities. While the Archives saw some mighty upgrades and has made many changes to provide better services, there is still plenty of work to be done. Digitization, preservation, and cataloging are costly and time-consuming endeavors that require professionals, software, equipment, and hardware. We are changing Archives at the University and much of this requires unprecedented funding that was not historically required for paper records. Online platforms and digitization create more work. Managing and collecting born-digital records presents its own challenges, but are necessary for continuing to build an archive when formats are no longer paper. While all of this work creates the need for more funding, it also provides users better access to all of our materials and enables our records to impact individuals anywhere at any time.

I encourage everyone to look out for the Archives during “Giving Tuesday” and check out our webpage. Look at what we have done and imagine what more we can do.

Our main page:

Recent online exhibits:

Online collections:

For different ways you can help Tech Archives:


Megan M. Atkinson

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History of the Leona Lusk Officer Black Cultural Center Exhibit

by Hannah O’Daniel McCallon

Caption: Photograph of students posing as a group in the Black Cultural Center on October 14, 1999. Source: Office of Multicultural Affairs records

Caption: Photograph of students posing as a group in the Black Cultural Center on October 14, 1999. Source: Office of Multicultural Affairs records

The Archives is creating three digital exhibits to celebrate the 30-year Anniversary of the Tennessee Tech Leon Lusk Officer Black Cultural Center. The second exhibit is on the history of the Center. It traces the philosophy of Black cultural centers in the United States to the Black student movement of the 1960s and 1970s. The exhibit outlines the climate in which Tech Black students decided to push for the founding of their own center in the late 1980s. Exhibit pages describe the continuity and changes in the Center overtime, spotlight the staff and leaders of the Center, and provide a detailed biography of the Center’s namesake, Leona Lusk Officer, the first African American student and graduate of Tennessee Tech University. The exhibit includes over 60 items, ranging from photographs, webpages, scrapbook pages, news releases, flyers, and other documents.

The exhibit is available here: . It is best viewed using a device with a large screen, such as desktop or laptop computer.

Caption: Photograph of student using a computer in the Black Cultural Center Computer Lab on October 14, 1999. Source: Office of Multicultural Affairs records

Be sure to check out our first exhibit on events held by the Black Cultural Center here.

For more on 30th Anniversary events, check out the website here.

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Big Name Entertainment Update

Archives and Special Collections extends its gratitude to those who responded to the Big Name Entertainment exhibit. We appreciate the stories alumni shared, photographs, and some of you even donated materials! We appreciate that since there are more ways to support the archives than just monetarily. We are always seeking ways to capture the student’s campus experience and donating memorabilia is one of those ways.

Alumni sent us stories of their least favorite concerts and performers, but also their favorite performances. One alum shared his Weird Al Yankovic show photographs from September of 1985, hailing it “one of his favorites” and photographs of the Beatles tribute band, 1964 the Tribute, which was a popular, recurring concert at Tech through the 1980s and 1990s. 1964 the Tribute played for crowds of over 35,000, wore replicas of Beatles outfits, and even imitated the performance styles of the original Beatles. They still perform today.

Photograph of Lynyrd Skynyrd flier.

A few people shared their memories of Lynyrd Skynyrd, who played Tennessee Tech on April 18, 1974 with the Pure Prairie League and Timberline. We could not locate photographs of this event, but it was advertised in The Oracle and there is a picture of an event flier. The drummer from Lynyrd Skynyrd, Artemis Pyle, or as he was less commonly known, Thomas Delmer Pyle (born July 15, 1948) attended Tennessee Technological University in 1966 and allegedly received his nickname “Artemis” while at Tech. Artemis Pile was a survivor of a tragic October 1977 plane crash that killed the lead and back-up singer of the band and wounded many others, including Artemis.

One alum told of seeing the Allman Brothers in May 13, 1971. The Allman Brothers’ 1971 album, “At the Filmore East,” was the band’s first commercial success. The band opened for Canned Heat, whose popularity was diminishing by 1971. The alum attending told of a full gym with fans from all over. Buses and vehicles were all over campus providing large groups transport to the show. The Allman Brothers, after performing for over two hours or as the alum described, “enough time for a baby birth in one of the bathrooms,” finally stepped off the stage for Canned Heat. This prompted many to leave for the night.

Caravan of Stars program cover, 1965.

Lastly, some viewers donated memorabilia to the collection. Ron Rami sent us concert tickets for Alabama, the Commodores, and the Statler Brothers with Reba McEntire. Rami also shared many of his stories with the Archives about his time as Director of University Programming and gave us the trophy the University awarded him for the sell-out Alabama concert. Sandra S. Elliot sent us a remarkable program from the Dick Clark’s “Caravan of Stars,” signed by the performers! Sandra attended the concert at Tech and later saw the performers going out to eat on Broad Street. Acting quickly, Sandra got the stars of the show to autograph her program, including the autograph of Tom Jones! As a result of this haste, the signatures are randomly dispersed through the book. The full program can be seen here:

Signed Tom Jones program, 1966.

If you have not already seen the exhibit, it is at the Varsity Theatre (social distancing and masks required) or online at:

You can listen to the performers as you explore the online exhibit using this Spotify playlist:

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Leona Lusk Officer Black Cultural Center Events Digital Exhibit

By Hannah O’Daniel McCallon

The Leona Lusk Officer Black Cultural Center is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year! Tennessee Tech University students, faculty, and staff founded the Black Cultural Center in 1989 to provide Black students a space to socialize, be supported, and learn about African American and African culture. The Center formally opened in August 1990.

The Tennessee Tech Archives is partnering with the Black Cultural Center to curate a series of three digital exhibits on the Center’s history and the history of African Americans at Tennessee Tech. The first exhibit in the series covers events held by the Center from 1990 to 2019. The exhibit features over 55 photographs, flyers, programs, invitations, clippings, and other documents that show the range of the Center’s programs. Topics include programs that supported Tennessee Tech students, educational events on the culture and history of people of color, prominent African Americans who spoke on campus, and alumni events. The exhibit is best viewed on devices with large screens, such as laptops and desktop computers. This exhibit is available on September 14 and can be viewed here:

Caption: Black and white photograph of eleven attendees at an event in honor of Martin Luther King Jr in the Black Cultural Center on January 14, 1993. Source: Office of Multicultural Affairs records

Most of the materials in the exhibit are from the newly processed records of the Office of Multicultural Affairs. The records document the founding of the Leona Lusk Officer Black Cultural Center in 1989 and efforts by the university to support the personal, cultural, social, and academic growth of students from underrepresented ethnic populations. The records also include flyers and photographs of predominantly Black student organizations on campus. The finding aid for the records is available here:

Caption: A scrapbook on the Black Cultural Center created in about 1999. Source: Office of Multicultural Affairs records

The Archives is using materials from multiple collections to research and curate the remaining two exhibits on the history of the Black Cultural Center and the Black experience at Tennessee Tech. We would love to feature the experiences of Black alumni and employees through oral histories, photographs, diaries, letters, or other documents. If you are interested in sharing your story about the Black Cultural Center, or your story of being a student or employee of color on campus, please contact the Archives at!

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Big Name Entertainment: The Exhibit, 1960s-1980s

Alumni and community regularly contact archives regarding the many big-name groups that performed at Tech in the past. Some inquire for nostalgia purposes but others inquire because of a concert’s historical significance. We assisted patrons as far as England and Australia with our big-name entertainment archives. As a result of this interest, we thought an exhibit featuring some of this big-name entertainment at the Varsity Theater would be a great idea.

Mailgram confirming Elvis performance courtesy of Ron Rami.

We worried the exhibit may only feature photographs of famous people on stages; however, I found that Tennessee Tech not only had big-name entertainment, it also had great stories surrounding these events, some that we have yet to unearth.

The exhibit features photographs of famous people on stages; however, it also includes some great stories and historical documents that add depth to the pictures. For instance, did you know Elvis’s last scheduled concert was at Tech? Or that a major record label signed Garth Brooks after playing Tech? More importantly, how did Tennessee Tech book these big-name acts??? Creedence Clearwater Revival, Johnny Cash, Jefferson Starship, and The Temptations to name a few. The exhibit answers these questions and more.   

We wanted a traditional exhibit opening. We even prepared a big-name entertainment playlist which you can listen to here (*Spotify required):

Former Tennessee Tech student Dottie West returns for a performance.

Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, this is not happening. So how can you view the exhibit? There are two ways: in person with social distancing and a mask at the Varsity Theatre or online at: . We are living in strange times, but we are also excited to try a new online exhibit software. We hope that it makes the exhibit accessible to more people.

We would like to thank alumni including Phil Wheeler, former University Program Committee Director Ron Rami, and many others for telling me their stories. Individuals helped add a more personal touch.

If you have a story about seeing a band at Tennessee Tech that we did not include and you would like for us to add it to the exhibit, you can submit it to make certain that your email includes a permission for us to publish and store your story for the exhibit and future researchers to use.

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Professor Emeritus Robert E. Jager Donates Original Scores and Manuscripts to Tennessee Tech Archives

By Jennifer Huffman and Megan Atkinson

Three-time winner of the American Bandmasters Association Ostwald Composition Award and Tennessee Tech Professor Emeritus Robert Edward Jager donated his personal archives to the Tennessee Tech Archives & Special Collections. Dating from 1956 to 2018, the archives include original sketchbooks and manuscripts, published and unpublished musical scores, and papers that provide a near complete account of his music career as a conductor and composer from early childhood through 2018.  They include such works as Esprit de Corps (1984), Third Suite for Band (1965), and I Dream of Peace (1998).

Born in Binghamton, New York, a love of music started very early for Robert E. Jager; his parents even met while playing in Salvation Army Bands. Robert began his career as a composer by preparing hymns and hymn variations to play alongside his father at the church that his father was a minister. He enlisted in the United States Navy, serving as Staff Arranger/Composer at the Armed Forces School of Music from 1962 until 1965.  He completed a Master of Music from the University of Michigan in 1968 and soon after started as a lecturer at Old Dominion University, composing both the words and music for their Alma Mater. After an earlier performance at Tennessee Tech University, Jager was later hired to join the faculty at Tennessee Technological University. In 2001, he retired after thirty years. As of 2019, the Tennessee Tech Foundation is currently working to create the Robert Jager Music Education Endowment for students who wish to major in music education.

Robert Jager at his desk in 1982.

Robert Jager has travelled as a conductor and lecturer across the United States of America, Canada, Europe, Japan, and the Republic of China. In addition to being the only three-time winner of the American Bandmasters Association’s “Oswald Award”, he has earned two fellowships along with numerous awards that span several decades. He has published over 150 musical works, many of them commissioned by major music organizations including every Washington-based military band, many large Universities, and the Tokayo Kosei Wind Orchestra.

A large portion of the Robert E. Jager papers, including published works and audio recordings, are available to search via EagleSearch at This collection showcases his musical processes from the beginning stages of development to finish.

Tennessee Tech Archives is grateful to be the administrators of this Professor Emeritus’s papers, which are open to all researchers wishing to investigate Jager’s history, career, and subsequent influence on the musical community or to casual patrons interested in hearing the fabulous compositions. The published works and audio recordings are searchable through library catalogs worldwide and the finding aid, processed by intern Jennifer Huffman, is available here:

You can listen to a few available performed pieces here:

Esprit de Corps

Third Suite\

Diamond Variations

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Volpe Library Exhibit and History

Students checking out books at the Jere Whitson Memorial Library, c. 1950. The Library was closed stacks, meaning library workers retrieved books for patrons.

Did you know Angelo and Jennette Volpe Library turned 30 in 2019? This was not Tech’s first library though. Tennessee Tech University’s first building dedicated solely to being a library was Jere Whitson Memorial Library. Prior to the Jere Whitson Memorial Library, the library operated in the administration building when Tennessee Tech was Dixie College and later when it was Tennessee Polytechnic Institute. The Jere Whitson Memorial Library was named in honor of Dixie College board member Jere Whitson. Jere Whitson was a driving force behind establishing a college in Cookeville, and he donated the land to build Dixie College. The Jere Whitson Memorial Library was located on the Quad in the same building that bears Jere Whitson’s name today.

Front of Jere Whitson Memorial Library, c. 1960s

Soon, however, Tennessee Tech’s enrollment increased and Tennessee Tech outgrew Jere Whitson Memorial Library. Students and librarians alike hoped for a new and improved library that could accommodate Tech’s growing student body. Jere Whitson Memorial Library would become so crowded during peak hours that there were not enough desks and chairs to accommodate all of the students. Thankfully, Tennessee Tech administrators understood that a new library was essential in properly serving the Tennessee Tech student body; construction began on Angelo and Jennette Volpe Library in 1987.

Prior to library book databases, students had to search for resources using a card catalog, which listed books and resources alphabetically by subject.

Angelo and Jennette Volpe Library opened its doors to students for the first time in the summer of 1989. Volpe Library is named after former Tennessee Tech University President Dr. Angelo Volpe and First Lady Jennette Volpe.  Dr. Angelo Volpe was Tennessee Tech University’s seventh president and third longest serving president (1987-2000). The library’s name includes both husband and wife because both were recognized for their contributions and hard work at Tennessee Tech. As of 2019, Angelo and Jennette Volpe Library has been an important part of Tennessee Tech campus life for thirty years.

The library has always been a popular hangout. c. 1950s.


Thousands of students have patronized Angelo and Jennette Volpe Library over the years, and thousands of students visited Jere Whitson Memorial Library before its closing.  Student life at Tennessee Tech University would be much different without the Angelo and Jennette Volpe Library and the Jere Whitson Memorial Library. Tennessee Tech’s libraries have changed a lot over 115 years, but each library has been an integral part of campus that has been dedicated to helping students succeed. How did the library impact your time at Tennessee Tech University?

Volpe Library at Night.

If you are interested in learning more about Volpe Library and its history, visit the exhibit on the main floor of the library or stop by the archives.

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