McClung Museum Director Celebrates Twenty-fifth Anniversary

Over the past quarter century, Jefferson Chapman has watched the McClung Museum evolve from a repository for archaeological artifacts and donated collections into an ever-changing go-to site for art lovers and history buffs alike.

Chapman is celebrating his twenty-fifth anniversary of leading the museum.

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Jefferson Chapman at UT’s McClung Museum of Natural History and Culture.

The museum opened in June 1963 but its roots date back to the 1930s, when university leaders and federal officials determined there was a need to preserve archaeological materials being displaced by Tennessee Valley Authority construction projects. Those artifacts, combined with a growing number of collections gifted to the university, were the building blocks of the museum. Today, the McClung Museum houses collections on anthropology, geology, archaeology, human origins, history, decorative arts, ancient Egypt, and natural history.

Under Chapman’s leadership the museum has expanded its reach, won numerous awards, and received three accreditations by the American Alliance of Museums.

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Jefferson Chapman, left, and Professor Gerald Schroedl of UT’s Anthropology Department, at the Patrick Site on the Tellico Reservoir in 1972.

“My hope is that the museum will entertain, inform, and inspire all those who walk through its doors,” Chapman said. “It’s extremely gratifying to share history and art with both the university students and faculty and the community at large.”

Soon after becoming director, Chapman added a full-time museum educator and the museum began offering docent-led tours to thousands of elementary school children each year. He’s increased the museum’s research activities, grown its major collections, created a membership program for museum supporters, added academic programs benefiting university students, and offered family programs benefiting the Knoxville community. Some of his most recent accomplishments include the installation of “Monty,” a life-size bronze-cast skeleton of an Edmontosaurus, in front of the museum, the acquisition of approximately $4 million dollars’ worth of rare maps and natural history prints, and the celebration of the first annual McClung Museum Boomsday celebration and fundraiser last summer.

“Jeff has helped make the McClung Museum a jewel on our campus and in our community,” Chancellor Jimmy G. Cheek said. “We value experiential learning, and the museum is a great example of some of the many ways that can be accomplished—from involving students in hands-on archaeological research to offering visitors the chance to engage in unique programming around exhibits to helping all of us learn to view our world differently through artwork and ancient artifacts.”

Chapman has a bachelor’s degree from Yale University and a master’s degree from Brown University. He taught history and anthropology at the Webb School of Knoxville for six years before returning to graduate school at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. After completing a second master’s degree and a doctorate, he came to UT in 1975 to work on the Tellico Reservoir Archaeological Project.

The McClung Museum, located at 1327 Circle Park Drive, is open from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday to Saturday and 1:00 to 5:00 p.m. on Sundays. Admission is free and parking passes are available from the parking information building at the entrance to Circle Park Drive on weekdays. Free public transportation to the museum is available via the Knoxville Trolley Vol Line.

CONTACT:

Stacy Palado (865-974-2143, spalado@utk.edu)