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The impetus for this new project was Girl Scout Mia Warren, who brought her Gold Award project to East Tennessee Historical Society and Knox County Public Library team members to develop a comprehensive gallery tour for visually impaired guests using interpretive text and written descriptions of key objects. Mia was inspired to pursue this as her Gold Award project after visiting museums with her friend Campbell Rutherford, who is visually impaired. “It would be nice not to rely completely on someone else, so if I wanted to stay back and finish looking at an exhibit, while someone else went on ahead, I could have that freedom,” remarked Campbell.

Approximately 20 million Americans (or 8%of the US population) have some degree of visual impairment. Museums across the country offer varying degrees of access for visually impaired guests, from Braille handouts to audio tours.

Campbell recommended an innovative method that allows visually impaired visitors to utilize screen readers on their personal devices. Instead of being asked to carry an audio stick, download a separate application, or use other unfamiliar technology, the MIA system allows guests to scan QR codes placed strategically throughout the History Center. These codes open webpages that contain a comprehensive written description of the space. Specially optimized for screen readers, the guest’s device then reads the description to the guest, providing them cues on how to safely navigate the space and in-depth descriptions of what is displayed in that space. The webpages may also be used by guests with restricted eyesight, who may choose to adjust the font size and contrast of the text, or by deaf-blind guests, who may access the same content via a portable Braille reader.

“It’s all about thinking of others,” said Mia. “We can help a lot of people who just want to get the full experience out of a museum.”

The East Tennessee History Center is grateful to Mia and Campbell for helping move this new accessibility initiative from discussion to action. The History Center is also indebted to Mia for the countless hours she expended in organizing the museum’s interpretive text, measuring distances between displays, and writing descriptions of objects.

MIA: Museums Increasing Accessibility is a project of the Museum of East Tennessee History and is an on-going initiative to increase accessibility in the museum for all.

About the MIA Project

Mia Warren is a Girl Scout in Troop 20496 from Knoxville, Tennessee, who was awarded a Gold Award, the organization’s highest honor, on December21, 2023, for the project MIA: Museums Increasing Accessibility. Girl Scouts pursuing a Gold Award are asked to propose and implement a lasting solution to a societal problem in their community. Mia chose museum accessibility, thinking of her family friend Campbell Rutherford of Dandridge, Tennessee, who was born with Leber congenital amaurosis (LCA), a rare type of inherited eye disorder. When the two visited museums together, they quickly learned that there were significant challenges for Campbell to have a meaningful visit. “There’s no spotting a museum and saying, ‘Oh! I might step in there for a bit,’” said Campbell. “You usually have to call ahead and see what the options are, to maybe schedule someone to walk through with you in advance. It’s more of an ordeal than it should be.”

Mia partnered with the Museum of East Tennessee History, where for the past two years she has researched best practices in museum accessibility and tested solutions for improving the museum-going experience with Campbell and other members of the visually impaired community. With assistance from team members from the East Tennessee Historical Society and Knox County Public Library, Mia created a QR code-based system that not only best served her target audience but also was able to be integrated into existing exhibitions. This system of QR codes provides access to a comprehensive written description of the museum, which allows individuals with visual impairments to navigate the entire museum independently using their own screen reader technology. Mia authored the comprehensive written description of the museum, which includes measurements between locations, all of the museum’s interpretive text, descriptions of objects on display, and other important cues.

“I didn’t realize how much I saw,” reflected Mia on her experience describing the Museum in text. “There’s a lot of hazards that you wouldn’t normally notice. On the cabin, there’s a shelf that a white cane wouldn’t be able to hit; I would have never thought about, because I can see it.” That detail, which assist visually impaired guests to safely move about the space, is now included in the MIA system.

The East Tennessee History Center is committed to increasing access for all. MIA: Museums Increasing Accessibility, which was named in honor of Mia’s hard work, is the first step in a series of planned initiatives to ensure that all guests have an equal opportunity to experience and appreciate the history of East Tennessee. For example, while Mia’s project initially focused on the museum, the MIA system has been installed throughout the East Tennessee History Center, so that visually impaired visitors to the Calvin M. McClung Historical Collection and Knox County Archives can independently navigate those spaces. Museum team members also hope to share the MIA system with other cultural institutions in hopes it becomes an industry standardized platform for accessibility. “Ideally, I would hope other museums would see this and realize that it’s not that complicated to make something accessible, “said Mia. “Then make it just like a normal thing, like you make a new exhibit and you just do this with it.”

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From the Collection

New to the Collection in 2023

Throughout the year, ETHS acquires objects and artifacts that help continue to tell stories of the people of East Tennessee. These objects come by way of gifts, purchases, or transfers. In 2023, ETHS saw 142 “new” objects added to the permanent collection, bringing the total to 16,420 Thank you to generous individuals who gifted items or donated to the Artifact Acquisition Fund.

Book Notes

What Did Southerners Have to Say about the Vietnam War?

Book Note: Joseph A. Fry, ed., Letters from the Southern Home Front: The American South Responds to the Vietnam War (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2023).

Book Notes

Honoring East Tennessee’s Veterans

The East Tennessee Veterans Memorial: A Pictorial History of the Names on the Wall, Their Lives, Their Service, and Their Sacrifice by John Romeiser with Jack H. McCall. (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 2020. Hardcover, $45.00)

From the Collection

June Artifact of the Month

Lewis C. Buckner (c.1856-1924). Sevier County cabinetmaker, carpenter, and housebuilder.

News SHARP Grant award graphic

ETHS thankful for SHARP grant

ETHS is grateful to have been awarded the Humanities Tennessee SHARP grant.

News East Tennessean of the Year poster.

Jenny and Randy Boyd Named East Tennesseans of the Year

The East Tennessee Historical Society named community leaders Jenny and Randy Boyd as East Tennesseans of the Year at a celebration dinner at Cherokee Country Club on November 3.

The SHARP grant funded staff for assistance on weekends and has been instrumental in providing the support for us to establish a clear idea of what the organizations needs are to meet the needs of visitors in our newly opened family gallery.  It would have been very difficult to take this step without this support.

Humanities Tennessee is the state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH).

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News

Unveiling of MIA, a new accessibility feature for the visually impaired at the Museum of East Tennessee History

The East Tennessee History Center is launching a new accessibility program that aids individuals with visual impairments in touring the Museum of East Tennessee History and navigating the various floors of the History Center.

From the Collection

New to the Collection in 2023

Throughout the year, ETHS acquires objects and artifacts that help continue to tell stories of the people of East Tennessee. These objects come by way of gifts, purchases, or transfers. In 2023, ETHS saw 142 “new” objects added to the permanent collection, bringing the total to 16,420 Thank you to generous individuals who gifted items or donated to the Artifact Acquisition Fund.

Book Notes

What Did Southerners Have to Say about the Vietnam War?

Book Note: Joseph A. Fry, ed., Letters from the Southern Home Front: The American South Responds to the Vietnam War (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2023).

Jenny and Randy Boyd Named East Tennesseans of the Year

Honorary co-chairs for the event were Bill and Crissy Haslam. Randy Boyd is President of the University of Tennessee System and the founder of Radio Systems Corporation, Boyd Sports, and TnAchieves. Jenny Boyd owns Boyd’s Jig & Reel, is a member of the Old City Association, and serves on the boards of the Tennessee Arts Commission, Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center, and the Museum of Appalachia. Together the Boyds have given more than $10 million to more than 100 charitable causes, from entrepreneurship and education, to child and animal welfare, to mental health and the arts.

The East Tennessee Historical Society Board of Directors established the award in 2011 to recognize and honor an East Tennessee history maker. Honorees must be an ambassador for our region and represent integrity, dignity, leadership, and the volunteer spirit. The award is given to East Tennesseans with either a recent accomplishment or a compilation of accomplishments in fields such as history, politics, entertainment, education, business, research, or humanitarian work that improves the lives of others. Previous award winners are Bill Haslam, Jack Hanna, Roy Kramer, Pete DeBusk, Natalie Haslam, Phillip Fulmer, and Lamar Alexander.

Randy & Jenny Boyd, East Tennesseans of Year 2022

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News

Unveiling of MIA, a new accessibility feature for the visually impaired at the Museum of East Tennessee History

The East Tennessee History Center is launching a new accessibility program that aids individuals with visual impairments in touring the Museum of East Tennessee History and navigating the various floors of the History Center.

From the Collection

New to the Collection in 2023

Throughout the year, ETHS acquires objects and artifacts that help continue to tell stories of the people of East Tennessee. These objects come by way of gifts, purchases, or transfers. In 2023, ETHS saw 142 “new” objects added to the permanent collection, bringing the total to 16,420 Thank you to generous individuals who gifted items or donated to the Artifact Acquisition Fund.

Book Notes

What Did Southerners Have to Say about the Vietnam War?

Book Note: Joseph A. Fry, ed., Letters from the Southern Home Front: The American South Responds to the Vietnam War (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2023).

The ETHS has been awarded a $50,000 Arts and Culture Alliance American Rescue Plan (ARP) Renewal Grant. The Arts and Cultural Alliance manages this grant program on behalf of Knox County and the U.S. Department of the Treasury. Funds support ETHS’s education department in its efforts to combat the impact of lost instructional time for Knox County K-12 school children using evidence-based programs and services.

ETHS is especially proud of the work we do with Knox County teachers and students, especially those who qualify for Title 1 funds. Through support such as this grant and other sponsors past and present, we can provide free educational programming to schools who face student income challenges. Not only are we able to provide equitable programming to students in Knox County, but also throughout the region. It is our goal to provide valuable education experiences to all students, regardless of economic status.

To extend the reach of ETHS into classrooms, ETHS Education Program Manager Dani Manley is working to expand the existing education volunteer corps and to provide further training that will ensure a consistent educational experience from our volunteer staff. Additionally, she is working to develop virtual alternatives to some of our most popular programs. These offerings will increase the range of the ETHS education department and let us more regularly serve the East Tennessee region more extensively. For schools with limited internet access, we will of course still travel to the schools to provide engaging, object-based experiences. The Arts and Culture Alliance American Rescue Plan will ensure Dani can continue to develop and broaden ETHS student programming over the next year.

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News

Unveiling of MIA, a new accessibility feature for the visually impaired at the Museum of East Tennessee History

The East Tennessee History Center is launching a new accessibility program that aids individuals with visual impairments in touring the Museum of East Tennessee History and navigating the various floors of the History Center.

From the Collection

New to the Collection in 2023

Throughout the year, ETHS acquires objects and artifacts that help continue to tell stories of the people of East Tennessee. These objects come by way of gifts, purchases, or transfers. In 2023, ETHS saw 142 “new” objects added to the permanent collection, bringing the total to 16,420 Thank you to generous individuals who gifted items or donated to the Artifact Acquisition Fund.

Book Notes

What Did Southerners Have to Say about the Vietnam War?

Book Note: Joseph A. Fry, ed., Letters from the Southern Home Front: The American South Responds to the Vietnam War (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2023).

Retired Tennessee Supreme Court Justice Gary Wade will join Haslam for this special “Tennessee Conversation” event, to be held in the sanctuary at First Presbyterian Church in downtown Knoxville.

The publisher, Thomas Nelson, notes that “Haslam has long been at the center of politics and policy on local, state, and federal levels, and he has consistently been guided by his faith, which influenced his actions on a wide range of issues. Yet the place of faith in public life has been hotly debated since our nation’s founding, and the relationship of church and state remains contentious to this day.”

He continues that “Faithful Presence: The Promise and the Peril of Faith in the Public Square calls for a different way. Drawing upon his years of public service, Haslam will discuss his remarkable vision for the redemptive role of faith in politics while examining some of the most complex issues of our time.”

About the Speakers

Bill Haslam is the former two-term mayor of Knoxville and former two-term governor of Tennessee, reelected in 2014 with the largest victory margin of any gubernatorial election in Tennessee history. During his tenure, Tennessee became the fastest improving state in the country in K-12 education and the first state to provide free community college or technical school for all its citizens, in addition to adding 475,000 new jobs. Haslam serves on the boards of Teach for America and Young Life. In the fall of 2019, Haslam became a visiting professor of political science at Vanderbilt University. He and his wife of 38 years, Crissy, have three children and nine grandchildren.

Gary Wade worked as a private practice attorney in his hometown of Sevierville, Tennessee, where he was elected mayor in 1977 and served five successive terms. He then became a judge for the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals for 19 years and was its presiding judge for eight of those years. Former Governor Phil Bredesen appointed Wade to the Tennessee Supreme Court in 2006, where he also served as the court’s chief justice for two years. Wade retired from the Tennessee Supreme Court in 2015, then serving as vice president and dean of Lincoln Memorial University’s Duncan School of Law until he retired in 2020. He now holds a position at Knoxville law firm London Amburn.

Books Are Available

Books will be available for purchase and signing following the event. If you would like to buy books beforehand, hardback copies are available from the Museum of East Tennessee History’s gift shop. You may pre-order your copy prior to attending the event, and we will have it ready for pick up upon your arrival. We will also ship signed or unsigned books. To order, call 865-215-8830 or 865-215-8825.

Publisher: Thomas Nelson (May 25, 2021)
Hardback: 240 pages
Dimensions: 6.2 X 0.95 X 9.3 inches
Item Weight: 13.9 ozs.

Info needed for shipping: Name, preferred shipping address, billing address, and complete information on method of payment (Please note if you would like a signed or unsigned copy.)

Info needed for day-of sales: Name, billing address, and complete information on method of payment

Purchase price per book: $26.99
Sales Tax: $2.50
Total per book for pick up: $29.49
Shipping Cost: $5.00
Total per book shipped: $34.49
Shipping cost per additional book: $2.00

Members receive a 10% discount! Please let us know you are a valued ETHS member when calling.

More News

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News

Unveiling of MIA, a new accessibility feature for the visually impaired at the Museum of East Tennessee History

The East Tennessee History Center is launching a new accessibility program that aids individuals with visual impairments in touring the Museum of East Tennessee History and navigating the various floors of the History Center.

From the Collection

New to the Collection in 2023

Throughout the year, ETHS acquires objects and artifacts that help continue to tell stories of the people of East Tennessee. These objects come by way of gifts, purchases, or transfers. In 2023, ETHS saw 142 “new” objects added to the permanent collection, bringing the total to 16,420 Thank you to generous individuals who gifted items or donated to the Artifact Acquisition Fund.

Book Notes

What Did Southerners Have to Say about the Vietnam War?

Book Note: Joseph A. Fry, ed., Letters from the Southern Home Front: The American South Responds to the Vietnam War (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2023).