The Archives of Appalachia was dedicated in 1978 in conjunction with the opening of the Institute for Appalachian Affairs by East Tennessee State University's president Arthur H. DeRosier, Jr. Founded on the belief that self understanding begins with an understanding of one's region, the Archives was created to promote an awareness of and appreciation for southern Appalachia. Foremost among those persons instrumental in establishing the Archives were professors Thomas Burton and Ambrose Manning. Their oral history archives of Appalachian folklore, manners, and customs formed the core of the Archives in the early years.
In 1984, the Archives partnered with the newly established Center for Appalachian Studies & Services to provide a comprehensive resource for the study of Appalachian heritage and culture. The Archives continued to strengthen its collections, adding research materials that documented the full spectrum of the Appalachian experience.
The Archives was fully integrated into the Center in 1998. At that time, the Archives moved to its present location on the 4th floor of the newly constructed Charles C. Sherrod Library. This new facility has allowed the Archives to expand its holdings, extend services to new audiences, and initiate a digital preservation program for images and sound
Despite the many changes over its thirty-year history, the Archives of Appalachia remains committed to its original purpose, to illuminate the lives of the people of Appalachia.
The mission of the Archives of Appalachia is to support research, educational activities, and artistic creativity that promote an understanding of the Appalachian region. The Archives seeks to collect and preserve those records of enduring value that document the historical and cultural fabric of life in Appalachia and make those records readily accessible for use by students, teachers, scholars, and the general public.