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: https://sos.tn.gov/news/tennessee-state-library-and-archives-breaks-ground-new-building


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: https://sos.tn.gov/products/tsla/world-war-ii-veterans-survey-1996

For more resources on World War II located at the Tennessee State Library and Archives, visit: https://sos.tn.gov/products/tsla/tennessee-world-war-ii-guide-collections-tennessee-state-library-and-archives


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

Friday, December 1, 2017

December: A Month of Holidays

By Ruth Hemphill



 The month of December is a time of festival for many people all over the world. 

In 2017, the first of many holidays starts at sundown Nov. 30 and extends to sundown Dec. 1. The holiday of Mawlid-al-Nabi celebrates the birth of the Prophet Muhammad for many Muslims. Celebrated with processions and sermons, Mawlid is designated as an official holiday in Muslim countries throughout the world. The date of the celebration is calculated according to the moon calendar.

For those interested in knowing more about this, the Tennessee Library for the Blind & Physically Handicapped (TLBPH) has several biographies, including:

Muhammad, by Michael Cook, available in audio and braille formats; Muhammad, by Demi, for grades 3-6, available in audio format; Muhammad: A Biography of the Prophet, by Karen Armstrong, available in audio and braille formats; Muhammad of Mecca: Prophet of Islam, by Elsa Marston, for grades 6-9 and older readers, available in audio format.


Bodhi Day commemorates for Buddhists the day the Buddha achieved enlightenment and, is thus, considered to be the founding of Buddhism. In 2017, Bodhi Day will be celebrated Dec. 8. Due to the austere nature of the Buddha’s quest for enlightenment, Bodhi Day is usually celebrated in a low-key fashion, with chanting and meditation. Some Buddhists do decorate a ficus tree and provide sweets for children.

Books related to Buddhism in the TLBPH’s collections include: The Art of Happiness: A Handbook for Living, by the dalai lama XIV and Howard Cutler, available in audio and braille formats; An Open Heart: Practicing Compassion in Everyday Life, by the Dali Lama XIV, available in audio and braille formats; and Buddhism, by I.G. Edmonds, for grades 5-8 and older readers, available in audio and braille formats.


Hanukkah begins at sundown Dec. 12 this year, lasting eight days until nightfall Dec. 20. Commemorating the rededication of the temple in Jerusalem, after a small tribe of Hebrews defeated a much larger Greek army, this “festival of lights” is celebrating with nightly menorah lightings, special prayers and a variety of foods. Only one candle is lit on the first night of Hanukkah with additional candles lit each night until all candles are lit. While many children are given gifts, the original tradition was to give children money to reward good behavior and devotion to studying the Torah. The money also allowed the children to practice charity.

Hanukkah books available from TLBPH include: Hanukkah in America: A History, by Diane Ashton, available in audio format, and The Story of Hanukkah, by Amy Ehrlich, for grades K-3 and older readers, available in audio and braille formats.


While dates for the previous festivals vary for each year, Christmas is always celebrated Dec. 25. For Christians, the celebration is a commemoration of the birth of Jesus Christ. Many Christians celebrate with decorated trees, church services and special foods. Others celebrate a more secular holiday with Santa Claus and gifts, and many celebrate a combination of both.

TLBPH has many Christmas books, including: The Physics of Christmas: From the Aerodynamics of Reindeer to the Thermodynamics of Turkey, by Roger Highfield, available in audio format; A Simple Christmas: Twelve Stories That Celebrate the True Holiday Spirit, by Mike Huckabee, available in audio format; Where Did Christmas Come From? by Al Remson, available in audio and braille formats; and Christmas Around the World, for grades 2-4, by Emily Kelley, available in audio and braille formats.


Kwanzaa begins Tuesday, Dec. 26, 2017 and goes through Monday, Jan. 1, 2018, marking the 51st annual celebration. It is a celebration of the best of what it means to be African and human in the fullest sense. A combination of African “first fruit” celebrations, with candle lightings, drumming, storytelling, poetry reading and food.

TLBPH has books for all ages describing this holiday, including:

It’s Kwanzaa Time!, by Linda Goss, for grades 4-7 and older readers, ; Kwanzaa, by Deborah M. Newton Chocolate, for grades K-3, available in audio and braille formats; and Kwanzaa: An African-American Celebration of Culture and Cooking, by Eric V. Copage, available in audio format.”



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

Monday, November 27, 2017

A Hidden Gem: Other State Resources at the Tennessee State Library and Archives

By Dr. Kevin Cason

At the Tennessee State Library and Archives, a researcher can find a wide variety of southeastern state related books that might help with their genealogical and historical research. The southeastern states that the Library and Archives has a strong collection of resources on include: Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, Arkansas, and Missouri.



For genealogical research, the Tennessee State Library and Archives has publications that have been compiled by genealogists and historical societies that can guide researchers to relevant primary sources. The books feature references for deeds, marriages, wills, court records and cemeteries. For example, with Virginia, some of the resources are broader in nature such as the Virginia Genealogist while others are more county specific like Lancaster County, Virginia Marriage References and Family Relationships, 1650 - 1800. Similarly, the North Carolina collection includes state resources such as The Colonial Records of North Carolina and county specific books such as The Heritage of Old Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, 1763 - 2003.




Other useful southeastern genealogical books in the collection pertain to land research such as Family Maps of Calhoun County, Alabama and Family Maps of Neshoba, Mississippi. Heritage books on specific counties are also available for southeastern states such as Chester County, South Carolina Heritage and History. In addition, there are a wide variety of books that have cemetery records for a particular county such as Cemeteries of Henry County, Georgia.

In addition to genealogical related books, there are books that provide historical insights about transportation in other states such as A History of Georgia Railroads. Other works appeal to scholars that are interested in cultural and visual studies such as Shot in Alabama: A History of Photography, 1839-1941.

Some books in the Library and Archives southeastern state book collection offer valuable information on women’s history. For example, the Southern Women: Their Lives and Times series features women who are significant for states such as North Carolina, Virginia, Alabama, Georgia and Kentucky. Furthermore, there are books that offer information about significant historic eras of time in a particular state like Running Mad for Kentucky: Frontier Travel Accounts. There are also resources that can provide general reference to historic people, places and things in a state’s history such as The Mississippi Encyclopedia.




With a wide variety of resources to choose from, the Tennessee State Library and Archives’ southeastern state book collection is a treasure trove for genealogists and historians who want to research outside of the state of Tennessee and connect with the past. For more on the other state resources available at the Tennessee State Library and Archives see the library search catalog: http://tsla.tlcdelivers.com:8080/#section=home


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

Friday, November 17, 2017

Fisk University in the Great War

By Allison Griffey

Like other schools, Fisk University contributed to the war effort during World War I. University leaders promoted the war effort and inspired students to participate. Two professors, Dexter N. Lutz and Leo E. Walker, joined the service not long after war was declared. On the homefront, professor Isaac Fisher coordinated many patriotic events on campus, such as lectures and flag raising ceremonies. He inspired students by linking patriotism with increased civil rights since the war had created new opportunities for African-American at home and overseas. Fisk instituted weekly military training for its male students through the Students’ Army Training Corps and converted its facilities to host over 600 black soldiers on-site.

Odie Falls Jennings, 1918

Tennessee World War I Gold Star Records, 1918-1924

Jennings was a member of Fisk’s Students’ Army Training Corps when he died at age 20 of influenza and pneumonia during the global Influenza Epidemic of 1918. The S.A.T.C. was a popular choice for college-age men, since it allowed them to continue their studies while joining the military and training on the homefront.


Fisk was one of three black institutions, alongside Howard University and Atlanta University that collaborated to establish the first black officers' training camp at Camp Dodge, Iowa. Black college students were instrumental in the formation of this camp, at least in part because of the direct impact the draft had on their lives. The Selective Service Act of 1917 called for draft registration of American men regardless of race. While some African-American were hesitant to support the United States' involvement in the war, many hoped that participation might lead to securing equal rights for the black population. Over 370,000 African-American men were inducted into the army. The military remained segregated and most black soldiers were assigned to service units that performed manual labor, though the army did create two combat divisions for African-American troops.



Letter to Governor Tom C. Rye from F. A. McKenzie, President of Fisk University, April 7, 1917

Governor Tom C. Rye Papers, 1915-1919

These documents describe the willingness of the African-American students at Fisk University to participate in the war effort. McKenzie also suggests organizing a network of African-American schools in Tennessee to create programs for military training and volunteer service in organizations such as the Red Cross.


Women at Fisk also worked industriously to “do their bit.” Their auxiliary chapter of the Red Cross produced 450 bed shirts and 100 knitted items for servicemen. Additionally, black women joined in the war effort by leading liberty loan drives, hosting rallies, registering nurses, and supporting black servicemen through clubs such as the National Association of Colored Women (NACW), Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA), Red Cross, and women's auxiliaries for black soldier unit. Ella Brown, dean of women, advocated for food conservation and asked students to take an active role addressing food shortage issues overseas. Professor Fisher also arranged for leading black women in the community to share their views on the war with soldiers. These lectures were given in part because professor Fisher believed women’s’ voices were as necessary to hear as men’s’ and because he hoped that the women would inspire soldiers by reminding them of the women in their lives.

Charter members of Fisk University Auxiliary, Nashville Chapter, American Red Cross, circa 1918

Davidson County Women in the World War, 1914-1919

Members of the group (alphabetical): Misses Abigail Jackson, Chairman, Instructor in Mathematics, Felina G. Blaine, Velda T. Brown, Lucy Brewer, Helen M. Burrell, Grace B. Broyles, Mabel E. Campbell, Emmie F. Drake, Tommie Sue A. Fosta, Pearl C. Haynes, Flay M. Henderson, Arah L. Horton, Florence B. Jackson, Clara W. Johnson, Clara L. Langrum, Ada B. Lewis, Ferris W. Lewis, Andrades S. Lindsay, Alma A. Oakes, Manila L. Owens, Roselyn L. Purdy, Nellie A. Randolph, Altamese C. Roberts, Ruth I. Rowan, Valda E. Sanders, Margaret A. Slater, Moirselles M. Stewart, Ethelynde J. Sutton, Alice M. Thomas, Isabel B. Walden, Annie G. Quick, Mrs. Ella W. Brown, Dean of Women and Mrs. M. S. Crosthwait, Registrar.



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

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Meet the Staff - Jennifer Randles

Meet Jennifer Randles. She is the Digital Materials Librarian with the Digital Workgroup.

How long have you worked here?

A little over one year, since August 2016.

What are some of the things you do as Digital Materials Librarian?

I lead the Digital Workgroup (DWG), which is the go-to group in the building for digitization and consulting on digital projects. We work mostly with other staff, although we do regularly talk to patrons who order hi-resolution scans or professional prints of our materials. You may not see the members of the DWG very often, but you’ve seen the results of our efforts. We collaborate with other groups in the building to digitize the fascinating items in the Library and Archives and make them available to the public. Whether it’s in the Tennessee Virtual Archive (TeVA), online exhibits or even our website pages—if you’ve seen it online, it has most certainly come through DWG at some point.

In addition to supervising staff, I manage the library’s digital collections and consult on digital projects. Somedays I am busy uploading new items to TeVA, and other days I’m consulting on how to best set up a new database or plan a digitization event. I also consult and guide other organizations who want to start digitization on how to start and maintain digital project and collections.

What is your favorite part of your job?

Often I tell people my favorite part is touching cool old stuff! I really love working with original materials and making them accessible to the public through the digital collections. It is such a thrill to take an item through the digitization and uploading process, then get feedback from people who are actually using what we’ve put online. I love hearing we have provided resources that assist someone in making progress in their research or learning more about their family history. It’s very satisfying to know you’ve helped make someone else’s life better in some way. I also must say I love working with the members of the Digital Work Group, as they are an awesome group of co-workers who can always make me smile.



Do you have a favorite collection?

I’m still learning about the collections here, but I think my current favorite is the Grassmere Collection. Several of us are working with Tori Mason from the Nashville Zoo to publish part of the collection on TeVA in the spring of 2018. It is a long process, but it has been so much fun! I’ve actually been able to do research on this project, which is something I don’t get to do very often so I’m having a ball.

Elise and Margaret Croft, who owned the Grassmere historic home and the land the Zoo is currently on, willed it all to the Nashville Children’s Museum to be used as a nature learning center after they passed on. The sisters were very proud of their connection to their land and passionate about sharing that love of nature and animals with the city. This collection has a great variety of materials, including photographs, recipe books, correspondence and oral histories. It also encompasses so many interesting topics, such as Nashville family history, agriculture, animals and even life in Cuba. It is exciting to get to know the sisters better as we go through the materials. I’ve become very fond of them through this process and I feel proud to be involved in sharing their story with the world.

What makes libraries and archives relevant to modern society?

The public needs libraries and archives more than ever, so we can sort through and make sense of all the information we are barraged with these days. The Library and Archives provides access to original historic materials and teaches others how to discover more about Tennessee and its people. I believe the more exposure you have to historic materials, the more you can see the same issues repeating themselves over time—and the better you can interpret the present and plan for the future. To me, providing access to materials that help people understand the world is extremely important and relevant. Luckily, in my job, it also happens to be a lot of fun.


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