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Knoxville and the Built Environment: An Oral History

Assistant Professor of Interior Design Liz Teston used her 2015 Community Engagement Incentive Grant to preserve the design and culture of Knoxville online.  Teston’s team created an archive bank for images, recordings and transcriptions focused on Market Square and the downtown area.

Liz Teston

Liz Teston

The web-based resource pulled together input from the Calvin H. McClung Historical Collection, International Interior Design Association, American Institute of Architects and the University of Tennessee Libraries. In addition to reaching out to community organizations and archives, project members reached out to the local community to seek input from Knoxville seniors and design historians for continued conversation and archive development.

“Archiving memories and providing community access allows these memories to endure,” Teston said. “Archiving and providing access to these memories is an act of historic preservation- the most sustainable type of design.”

Bettie StylesThe website,, will be used in archival retrieval in forthcoming research projects and will continue to collect stories and content to add to Knoxville and the Built Environment: An Oral History.

Teston also presented a scholarly paper at the Journal of Interior Design Symposium using the project’s design archival history to discuss culture and design impacts on memory spaces.

“This collection of primary source narratives bridges the gap between academia and practice,” said Teston. “Documentation and analysis of cultural identity and memory’s impact on the built environment of Knoxville is a shared benefit of University-community partnership.”