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East Tennessee Historical Center

Museums, Galleries and Archives ()


The East Tennessee Historical Society is one of the most active historical organizations in the state and offer archives, public lectures, and museum exhibits for the general public. Displays include items owned by early Tennesseeans such as Davy Crockett and John Sevier, memorabilia from events such as the Appalachian expositions of 1910 and 1911, artifacts from the Battle of Fort Sanders, a complete trolley car, a drugstore display, and early country music instruments and memorabilia.

East Tennessee Historical Center
Photo by Mike O' Neill featuring one section of East Tennessee History Center
Streetcar exhibit


    The East Tennessee Historical Center occupies a building that originally housed Knoxville's first United States Customs House and Post Office. United States government architect Alfred Bult Mullett designed the structure which was completed in 1874. Serving as Knoxville's federal building until 1933, the building also housed a federal courtroom on the third floor. From 1936 to 1976 the building was home the main Knoxville offices of the Tennessee Valley Authority. In 1977 the Knox County Public Library assumed control of the building for the purpose of establishing a first class historical research center. In 1973 the building was the first structure in Knoxville to be placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

     In 1834, the East Tennessee Historical and Antiquarian Society organized. An early Tennessee historian, Dr. J.G.M. Ramsey, helped to form the society which eventually became the East Tennessee Historical Society. Beginning in 1924 the society established a private/ public relationship with the Knox County Public Library's Calvin M. McClung Historical Collection in order to preserve and present the region's history. To that end the East Tennessee Historical Society's Museum of East Tennessee History opened in 1993. Soon the museums' success required an expansion and the new Museum of East Tennessee opened in 2008. 

     Recognizing that East Tennessee’s history, heritage, and geography are distinct from the rest of the state, the East Tennessee Historical Society provides services and programs uniquely tailored to the region. Presenting the region's history through award winning permanent and temporary exhibits, the museum features stories from East Tennessee's rich past. One such exhibit, Voices of the Land: The People of East Tennessee, presents 300 years of life in East Tennessee.

     ETHS partners with and promotes the history and events of organizations and sites across 35 counties trough 45 affiliate chapters. 



601 S Gay St
Knoxville, TN 37902
Phone Number
(865) 215-8830
M-F: 8am - 5pm Closed May 26, 2014
  • Agriculture and Rural History
  • Cultural History
  • Gender and Sexuality
  • Labor History
  • Military History
  • Native American History
  • Political and Diplomatic History
  • Railroads and Transportation
  • Local History Societies and Museums
  • Women’s History
This location was created on 2014-05-03 by Christopher Leadingham, Appalachian Studies Association   It was last updated on 2015-07-11 by Jerrell Sigmon .

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