Bright Young Librarians: Alesha Shumar

What is your role at your institution?

Assistant Head and University Archivist of the Betsey B. Creekmore Special Collection and University Archives at the University of Tennessee Knoxville.

How did you get started in special collections?

My first introduction into special collections was in my undergraduate as a history major. I used a couple different manuscript collections in my research. I enjoyed it so much that I started as a student worker within my special collections throughout the rest of my undergrad career before going on to grad school. 

Where did you earn your MLS/advanced degree?

University of Pittsburgh, School of Library and Information Science.

Favorite rare book / ephemera that you've handled?

This is always a tough question because I have so many favorites. What I have enjoyed most recently is showing our students all of the wonderful primary resources that are available to them for their research. It is really wonderful to see their eyes light up when they are handling some of the historical materials for the first time.  

What do you personally collect?

Historic maps of different places I've traveled.

What do you like to do outside of work?

Living so close to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, I like to be outdoors hiking, biking and also paddle boarding on the Tennessee River.

What excites you about special collections librarianship?

Every day is different. I am constantly amazed with the diversity of collections and resources that I get to handle, process and teach with on a daily basis.

Thoughts on the future of special collections librarianship?

I feel that the future of special collections librarianship is bright. We have a library school at the University of Tennessee and the interest has tripled in the number of students wanting to work in special collections or complete a practicum with our department. We have has numerous student workers go on to get their masters and become archivists and special collections curators at institutions across the country. 

Any unusual or interesting collection at your library you'd like to draw our attention to?

An interesting and unusual area of research at the University of Tennessee is in the field of Forensic Anthropology. We house the papers of Dr. William M. Bass III. Dr. Bass  is a well-known forensic anthropologist focused on human osteology and human decomposition made famous for creating the Anthropology Research Facility, colloquially known as the Body Farm. The research conducted at the Body Farm is world renowned and has forever change the study of Forensic Anthropology. His research papers, which cover Dr. Bass' more than 60 years as a professor and researcher, include personal and professional correspondence, publications and material related to the creation of the Body Farm.   

Any upcoming exhibitions at your library?

We are currently preparing to celebrate the University of Tennessee Knoxville 225th Anniversary. We are completely revamping the timeline on the university website, rolling out a brand new university focused digital encyclopedia named Volopedia after our mascot the Tennessee Volunteer. We also have events and exhibits planned throughout the year to celebrate the history and legacy of the University of Tennessee.