Thursday, January 18, 2018

Meet the Staff - Megan Spainhour

Meet Megan Spainhour. She is a Digital Imaging Specialist with the Digital Work Group.

How long have you worked here?

Since September 2013.

What are some of the things you do as a Digital Imaging Specialist?

I work fulfilling both patron and internal orders. This typically means scanning, printing and preparing maps, photos, letters, and many other items that are requested from our collections. I work with authors, publishers, researchers, genealogists, filmmakers, and several other types of patrons who are interested in obtaining copies of images in either digital or print form. Orders that I receive can vary from working with microfilm to printing out large maps, sometimes up to 5 feet. I also assist as a staff photographer and organize our group’s “Learn The Collections” program, in which each of us in the Digital Work Group is assigned a random collection every two weeks to learn and present to the rest of the group.

What is your favorite part of your job?

Learning history. I moved to Tennessee in 2010, and really didn’t know that much about the state’s history before I worked at the Tennessee State Library and Archives. I learn so much every day and to be able to hold and see original items in your hands is both fascinating and amazing. It is easy to put yourself in the shoes of that original creator writing that letter or taking that historical photo. I also love working and communicating with patrons who have struck gold in their research, and have found something they are excited about. I have a lot of fun fulfilling those orders.

Do you have a favorite collection?

With the wide variety of treasures we have here at Tennessee State Library and Archives, I cannot just narrow it down to one. A few of the top favorites are The Grassmere Collection, Genealogical Charts Collection and TSLA Map Collection. Some of my co-workers and I are currently working on a project with the Grassmere Collection, which has an amazing story to tell. I encourage our patrons to visit, pull anything that sounds interesting from our collections, and just learn. You can find some pretty intriguing stories when you have got the time to learn.

What makes libraries and archives relevant to modern society?

History. History will never go out of style. There is always something to gain from researching and learning about our ancestors and our past. They say history repeats itself, which cannot be denied.

The Tennessee State Library and Archives is a division of the Office of Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Utilizing digital scanners in your research

By Heather Adkins

At the Library and Archives, we strive to stay up to date on the best technology to better serve researchers. This includes three types of scanners that have proven very popular.

Microfilm readers look different today from the crank machines created decades ago. Though we have readers hooked to printers, more often researchers utilize our microfilm scanners. There are several benefits to using scanners rather than printers. Foremost, scanning allows researchers to have a master digital copy without risk of ruining or losing a paper copy. A digital copy also lets researchers send copies to friends and family and print innumerable copies without the cost. Speaking of cost, scanning microfilm to your flash drive is free. Using our printers costs $0.25 per page, which makes scanning more economical. Researchers can utilize digital scanners to scan anything from microfilmed newspaper articles, state records, manuscript collections, county records and vital records.

Tips for using microfilm scanners:

  • Zoom into newspaper articles as far as possible rather than scanning the entire page. If you scan the entire page, the scan may not be high enough resolution to zoom into the article later.
  • If the record has more than one page, you can scan a multipage PDF. Ask a staff member to show you how!

Book scanners get a lot of traffic in the library. Researchers who use our book collection often want to take copies of a few pages home with them. These scanners allow for that: just insert a flash drive and scan – it’s that simple! The book scanners are built with an adjustable bed, designed to relieve pressure on a book’s spine while still allowing for a flat page spread. Like the microfilm scanners, the book scanners are free to use. Using the photocopy machine is $0.15 per page, so again scanning is a better deal. Also, like the microfilm scanners, the book scanners give you a master digital copy.

Not sure what you can scan? We’ve seen all sorts of books scanned – city directories, county record transcripts, atlases and histories. That said, it is the responsibility of the researcher to determine use under copyright. Find out more about that here. []

Tips for using the book scanners:

  • You can adjust page settings before saving the scan to your flash drive. The page borders are adjustable, and you can limit the scan to one page or the entire spread.
  • If you want more than one page from a particular book, you can make a multipage PDF. Ask a staff member to show you how!

Researchers can access both microfilm machines and the book scanners when visiting the Library and Archives. However, there is one more scanner that researchers frequently use without realizing it. The map scanner is a large flatbed machine used by our Digital Work Group (DWG) for researcher requests and programs like Education Outreach, Exhibits and the Historical Maps Digital Collection. To date, DWG has scanned nearly 600 maps of a collection of over 4,000, and they scan about 10 more every month with the help Archival Technical Services and Archives Development Program staff who research and write metadata.

Although DWG does not scan researchers’ personal items, they do take requests for specific collection items. Are you interested in finding a map of where you live or Tennessee as a new state? You can look them up on the Tennessee Virtual Archive (TeVA). Though only a portion of the map collection is currently scanned, you can search through the entirety of the collection here. []

Tips for researching and ordering maps:

  • When searching for maps at the above link, type keywords in the “Search Maps” bar.
  • You can order high-resolution scans or prints of items, and you can also download lower resolution images directly from TeVA.
  • Ready to order a map? There are a couple details that you will need to fill out the order form. Please include either the ID# (if there is an image available online) or the Location (if there is NOT an image available online). The ID#, location and other descriptors are available in the metadata for each map.

Scanners accessible by the public save to flash drives. If a researcher forgets theirs, we provide flash drives at our cost to purchase them as a service to our visiting researchers. Have a question about how to use the scanners? Our Public Services staff is here to help. We’ll get you scanning records in no time!

The Tennessee State Library and Archives is a division of the Office of Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Meet the Staff - Gibb Baxter

Meet Gibb Baxter. He is an Archival Assistant with the Public Services section of the Library and Archives.

How long have you worked here?

I have worked here for 11 short years!

What are some of the things you do as an Archival Assistant in Public Services?

When I am not assisting patrons with their research in the microfilm reading room or working on one of a bevy of recurring projects, I am usually processing incoming and outgoing interlibrary loan requests. While we are a non-circulating library (i.e., you can’t check out books), a portion of our collection can be accessed remotely by requesting material from us through one’s local library. Most of our manuscripts collections and state record groups are available to any library, and most of our microfilmed newspapers are available to Tennessee libraries. We’re a little more selective with loaning out our books, since (unlike microfilm) we can’t produce a new copy of those in-house, but we do offer to loan those for which we do have a second copy. We house such a wide variety of items, it’s a bit of a case-by-case decision, so anyone interested in borrowing an item should check our interlibrary loan page on our website or give us a call and ask for me. On the flipside, if you are here in Nashville and are seeking something housed in another library, I will do my best to borrow it on your behalf.

What is your favorite part of your job?

As a member of the public services team, the best part of the job is the validation we receive from the public. Our patrons range from veteran researchers and professional genealogists to young students and novice family history-seekers, but no matter where you are in your research, I’m here to help you navigate our collections and where my knowledge falls short it is inevitably picked up by one of my colleagues. We take pride in our eagerness to serve and our patrons continually express their gratitude in return.

Do you have a favorite collection? What interests you about it?

While tempted to choose from our plethora of manuscripts collections, I have always been most fascinated by our Library Collection. With so much freely available online, many of our older volumes rarely need to be pulled from the stacks anymore, but that doesn’t take away from the sense of wonder that accompanies browsing shelf after shelf, floor after floor of serial publications, government documents and books which span centuries. When pulling a book for a patron or myself, I’m struck by how often the volume I find is a first edition or otherwise rare printing and I can seldom pull anything without stopping to browse the other books surrounding it. Though our stacks are closed to the general public, I encourage everyone to search our online catalog and give us a reason to venture in and bring forth the gems within.

What makes libraries and archives relevant to modern society?

In a word, literacy. Today’s literacy involves not only the ability to read and write but the ability to think critically on the fly. On the archival side, the argument moves from access to preservation; it’s one thing to digitize a document, but another entirely to make sure that same document will be there to re-digitize in 200 years. Technology is always working wonders, not in ways that make libraries or archives obsolete, but in ways that will make them even more relevant for the generations to follow.

The Tennessee State Library and Archives is a division of the Office of Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett

Monday, December 18, 2017

2017 Civics Essay Contest Winners Announced

The Tennessee Secretary of State’s office is pleased to announce the winners of its 2017 civics essay contest, an annual initiative created to encourage students to be actively engaged citizens.

Students were asked to write about citizenship with length requirements varying by grade level. Winners will receive a TNStars 529 College Savings Program scholarship and a trip to the State Capitol this spring. First place winners receive a $500 scholarship, with second and third place winners receiving $250 and $100 respectively.

“I’m thrilled more than 1,000 students from across the state wrote an essay for the contest. The students demonstrated a passion for actively participating in their communities at a young age,” said Secretary of State Tre Hargett. “Our long-term goal is to increase civic engagement across the state.”

2017 Civics Essay Contest Winners

Ninth – 12th Grade:
  • First: Simon Jolly, Hardin Valley Academy (Knox County)
  • Second: Karla Hines, Whitehaven High School (Shelby County)
  • Third: Kennedy Cole, Mt. Juliet High School (Wilson County)
  • Honorable Mention: Gaige Guyer, Powell High School (Knox County)

Sixth – Eighth Grade:

  • First: Grace Darke, Christ the King School (Davidson County)
  • Second: Isabelle Sorensen, East Hamilton Middle High School (Hamilton County)
  • Third: Lauren Mansfield, Centertown Elementary School (Warren County)
  • Honorable Mention: Lauren Perry, Westwood Middle School (Coffee County)

Third – Fifth Grade:

  • First: Annabelle Kelly, Our Lady of Perpetual Help School (Hamilton County)
  • Second: Asa Cullity, South Cumberland Elementary School (Cumberland County)
  • Third: Sam Daugherty, Homeschool, Classical Conversations (Montgomery County)
  • Honorable Mentions: Elsa Smith, Covenant Academy (Warren County); Maddie Boyd, Oak Elementary School (Shelby County)

Kindergarten – Second Grade:
  • First: Maci Aylor, Blue Grass Elementary School (Knox County)
  • Second: Kirsten Williams, Ezell-Harding Christian School (Davidson County)
  • Third: Brady Watts, Sylvan Park Paideia Design Center (Davidson County)
  • Honorable Mention: Ava Aldridge, Allons Elementary School (Overton County)

The contest, along with last year’s successful Student Mock Election, is part of the office’s civic engagement program.

The civic engagement program also offers lesson plans based on the Tennessee Blue Book created by Tennessee teachers. The goal is to offer an easy way for teachers to incorporate civic engagement into their curriculum.

For more information on the essay contest, Student Mock Election or lesson plans visit

The Tennessee State Library and Archives is a division of the Office of Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Tennessee State Library and Archives Breaks Ground on New Building

Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett, along with Gov. Bill Haslam, Lt. Gov. Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge), Speaker Beth Harwell (R-Nashville) and Tennessee State Librarian and Archivist Chuck Sherrill, officially broke ground on the new home of the Tennessee State Library and Archives Monday.

L to R: Rep. Bill Beck (D-Nashville); Larry Hart, TMPartners, PLLC; Kem Hinton, Tuck Hinton Architects; Rep. Steve McDaniel (R-Parkers Crossroads); Sen. Bill Ketron (R-Murfreesboro); Gov. Bill Haslam; Secretary of State Tre Hargett; Chuck Sherrill, State Librarian and Archivist; Rep. Charles Sargent (R-Franklin); Ann Toplovich, Tennessee Historical Society

The new 165,000 square foot facility will include a climate-controlled chamber for safely storing historic books and manuscripts as well as a state-of-the-art robotic retrieval system. There will also be classrooms for teaching students and meeting space for training librarians and archivists.

“Tennessee has a strong and rich history and it is important to preserve our past to pass on to future generations,” Gov. Haslam said. “We have significantly outgrown the space that currently houses Tennessee’s most significant and historic documents and vital records, so I thank the General Assembly for working with us to make this much-needed new Library and Archives facility a reality.”

The site is on Bicentennial Mall at the intersection of Sixth Avenue N and Jefferson Street. The facility will be a major upgrade in capacity, preservation and public access from the current 1950s era building which sits directly west of the State Capitol.

The $123.8 million project, which started in 2005, received substantial funding this year after being included in the governor’s budget and approved by the General Assembly. To date, roughly half of the project is funded and the remainder will be recommended in the upcoming budget.

“The new building ensures Tennessee’s history will be preserved for generations while making it more accessible. This world-class facility will blend the necessity of historic preservation with the ever-increasing demand for digital access. I applaud Gov. Haslam and the entire General Assembly for making this a reality so we can better serve Tennesseans,” Secretary Hargett said.

The new building will also feature a conservation lab for the treatment and restoration of books, photographs and documents. There will also be dedicated exhibit spaces for Tennessee’s founding documents and rotating exhibits, as well as a grand reading room with seating for 100 readers and scholars.

Other features include a vault for storing photographic negatives, an early literacy center designed specifically for children with a visual disability and a recording lab to produce oral histories and audio books on Tennessee history.

The project is expected to be completed in the fall of 2019.

Read this press release and view additional images at:

The Tennessee State Library and Archives is a division of the Office of Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Remembering Pearl Harbor

By Ellen Robison

Dec. 7, 1941, began just like any other quiet Sunday morning for the Pearl Harbor naval base near Honolulu, Hawaii. The United States battleships were moored in the harbor in what was known as Battleship Row, along with a majority of the Pacific fleet. The United States had not yet entered World War II, which had been raging in Europe for over two years. Soldiers and sailors stationed on the island were training for a war that seemed like only a distant possibility to their tropical paradise. That all changed by 8 a.m. when the Japanese military began a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, hoping to strike a crippling blow to the U.S. fleet. President Franklin D. Roosevelt described Dec. 7 as “a date which will live in infamy.” His words could not have been truer. Today, the Tennessee State Library and Archives honors Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day by highlighting the firsthand account of Clifton E. Blankenship, who witnessed the whole scene from his position on the U.S.S. Tennessee’s No. 6 gun mount.

Japanese planes attacking Pearl Harbor. A printed caption filed with this photograph states, “Japanese planes (circled) dive on U.S. military forces at Pearl Harbor, fighting back with anti-aircraft fire – seen at right – on the opening day of the U.S.-Jap war, Dec. 7. Heavy column of smoke at left rises from burning USS Arizona.”
Tidwell, Cromwell, Collection, 1794-1976
Tennessee Historical Society (THS 680).

Clifton Ezro Blankenship was born in Campbell County, Tennessee in 1918. He enlisted in the Navy in 1937 and served his four-year enlistment term aboard the U.S.S. Tennessee. He had worked his way to the rank of Boatswain’s mate, second class, and was due to be honorably discharged in mid-December 1941. In his account, Blankenship recalls having just “settled back to read my paper,” when he heard the first explosions. Thinking it was the Army conducting target practice, he was stunned to see the Japanese flag painted on the aircraft as they swarmed the harbor.

Blankenship account describing the attack on Pearl Harbor, pages 3-4.
Tennessee World War II Veterans’ Survey 1996, Record Group 237
Tennessee State Library and Archives

Blankenship recounts his first taste of combat in an under-manned anti-aircraft battery as “chaos and disorder prevailed.” He describes seeing the torpedoes and bombs fall, ripping apart the U.S.S. West Virginia and U.S.S. Oklahoma, and watching as both ships began to tilt to the side and sink under the water. The oil that had leaked into the water covered the harbor in a sheet of flames as sailors who abandoned ship tried to escape. He felt the explosion of the U.S.S. Arizona’s powder magazine rock his own ship and the thick smoke made it difficult to aim the anti-aircraft guns.

Blankenship account describing the attack on Pearl Harbor, pages 5-7.
Tennessee World War II Veterans’ Survey 1996, Record Group 237
Tennessee State Library and Archives

Blankenship found inspiration in the survivors they rescued from the sinking ships. He recalls, “… they were battered and beaten, but still they came out of the burning water aboard the Tennessee, and asked ‘What can I do to help?’” These were the lucky ones. A total of 2,403 people died in the attack on Pearl Harbor. Half of the fatalities were sailors assigned to the U.S.S. Arizona. Their remains still lie entombed in the wreckage at the bottom of the harbor. Blankenship was discharged on Dec. 18, 1941, and re-enlisted the next day for another full term. The war had only just begun for the United States, but as the U.S.S. Tennessee sailed out of Pearl Harbor, repaired and ready for a more equal battle, Blankenship “was thinking of my shipmates, and the thousands of other sailors, soldiers, and marines who had made the supreme sacrifice for their country on the ‘Day of Infamy.’”

Blankenship account describing the attack on Pearl Harbor, Pages 10 and 14.
Tennessee World War II Veterans’ Survey 1996, Record Group 237
Tennessee State Library and Archives

Clifton E. Blankenship’s World War II veteran survey and memoir of Pearl Harbor can be found in the Tennessee World War II Veterans’ Survey Collection, 1996:

For more resources on World War II located at the Tennessee State Library and Archives, visit:

The Tennessee State Library and Archives is a division of the Office of Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

"Doing Their Bit: Tennesseans and the Great War" exhibit opening to the public

By Caroline Voisine

The Tennessee State Library and Archives is proud to announce the installation of its latest exhibit, Doing Their Bit: Tennesseans and the Great War.

Opening to the public on Dec. 5, 2017, this exhibit features materials from the Library and Archive’s extensive collections. This exhibit focuses on both the Tennesseans who fought overseas and those who contributed to the war effort on the home front throughout the First World War.

Colonel Luke Lea and other officers wearing gas masks, 1918
Luke Lea Papers
Tennessee State Library and Archives

The first half of the exhibit touches on the soldiers who fought on the front lines; Gold Star recipients, Medal of Honor heroes and the brave individuals who served their country in a war for human rights. The second half of the exhibit explores the activities and citizens who made victory possible right here in Tennessee. This includes women who volunteered as nurses or went to work in local factories, mothers who endured the deaths of their children, and children who saved their pennies and sold war bonds.

The Library and Archives is proud to exhibit not only its visual walled displays but also a curated selection of original archival material. Five exhibition cases will be filled with material from different manuscript and government records collections. One such display will be from the Library and Archives World War I Poster Collection.

Two Red Cross volunteers “Serving their country,” 1918
Over Here, Over There: Tennesseans in the First World War
Tennessee State Library and Archives

Doing Their Bit: Tennesseans and the Great War will be open to public beginning Dec. 5, during regular business hours, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. CST. Visitors can view the exhibit in the front lobby of the Library and Archives building, located at 403 7th Avenue North in Nashville.

The Tennessee State Library and Archives is a division of the Office of Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett