Upper Cumberland Institute

UCIL LogoTHE UPPER CUMBERLAND HUMANITIES AND SOCIAL SCIENCES INSTITUTE was created at Tennessee Tech in the 1980s by professors Homer Kemp (English) and Calvin Dickinson (History). Through the years, UCI has undertaken many invaluable research projects pertaining to the Upper Cumberland region of Tennessee and Kentucky, from architectural histories to oral histories of coal miners. In 2005, joined by their former student Prof. Michael Birdwell, they created THE UPPER CUMBERLAND STUDIES ENDOWMENT to help fund the Institute, the directorship of which Birdwell undertook in 2014 after Kemp and Dickinson had both retired. Upon the untimely demise of Dr. Birdwell in 2022, directorship was passed to Dr. Troy D. Smith, to whom all three professors had served as mentors.


It is the goal of the Institute to honor the past accomplishments of, and continue the legacy of, Professors Kemp, Dickinson, Birdwell, and their students through the years, by continuing to give students hands-on experience in preserving the history of our region using the most up-to-date equipment and resources.


Oral History Interviews




Current Ongoing Projects

  • Creating a digital oral history archive of labor in the Upper Cumberland -specifically, at this time, tobacco agriculture and garment manufacturing or “shirt factories”
  • Creating a digital oral history archive of interviews with military veterans from the Upper Cumberland
  • In partnership with Geology and Tennessee Tech Archives, initially via a “Rural Reimagined” grant, building a digital archive of Upper Cumberland weather/climate history

Experience Tech For Yourself

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Contact Information

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Contact Dr. Smith via email at or by phone at 931-372-6297.