Friday, January 18, 2013

“Looking Back” is coming to TSLA!

To commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, the Tennessee State Library and Archives has spent the last two years sending teams of professional archivists and conservators to communities across Tennessee in an effort to digitally preserve Civil War era manuscripts, artifacts, and photographs held in private hands.

Our next stop on this journey is right in our own backyard.

On Saturday, January 26th, TSLA will open its own doors to area residents who would like for us to document their Civil War era photographs, documents and other artifacts. Items will be scanned or photographed and returned to the owner within an hour. Participants will receive basic conservation supplies for their items, digital copies of the images, and the opportunity to have their Civil War memorabilia preserved, digitized, and shared online for future generations. Digital copies of these items, representing the rich Civil War heritage of Tennessee families, will become part of a virtual exhibit, “Looking Back: The Civil War in Tennessee” which commemorates the 150th anniversary of the war in Tennessee.

As part of the event, TSLA is also hosting a free workshop on Civil War photography by The Vacant Chair Studio from 9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. At this workshop, Vacant Chair will demonstrate how traveling studios used by itinerant photographers of the era looked. Vacant Chair will also discuss the history and role of photography during the Civil War time period, as well as offering a step-by-step explanation of how wet plate/collodian photographic images were produced.

Those wishing to participate in the “Looking Back” event and the workshop must contact TSLA to make reservations, as seating and parking is limited. To reserve a time for the “Looking Back” event, phone 615-253-3470 or email Patrons can register for the workshop by telephone by calling 615-741-2764 or by email at

Among the most unique items that we encountered during our travels is the following tintype of Henry Jenks and an unidentified individual. Jenks and a friend escaped from Libby Prison in Richmond, Virginia, and made it safely back to Union territory to rejoin their regiments. Accompanying the tintype is this pass signed by President Abraham Lincoln ordering the Secretary of War to permit Henry Jenks and his friend to rejoin their regiments. It is a fascinating story told through an image and a document that would have never been told without the foresight of one person who thought it should be shared with others through TSLA’s “Looking Back” project.

Tintype of Henry Jenks and an unidentified individual.
Digital image, Tennessee State Library & Archives.

Pass signed by Abraham Lincoln.
Digital image, Tennessee State Library & Archives.

If you have an interesting Civil War item that you would like to share, please consider a visit to the Tennessee State Library and Archives on Saturday, January 26th. Who knows, maybe your family can make Civil War history once again!

The State Library and Archives is a division of the Tennessee Department of State and Tre Hargett, Secretary of State.

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