Friday, May 30, 2014

Tennessee’s Founding and Landmark Documents website offers a glimpse into our state's past...

As Tennessee's "Statehood Day" approaches, the occasion reminds us of the importance of Tennessee's founding documents. From the Royal Proclamation of 1763 to the earliest purchase of land from Native Americans to the first constitutions of the State of Tennessee, the Tennessee’s Founding and Landmark Documents digital collection contains various fascinating pieces that are among the most important records from the state’s past.

Significant milestones in the formation and early history of the state are presented here for the first time in digital form taken directly from the originals, with full transcription and accompanying historical text. Each of the founding documents has been transcribed and the text can be viewed side by side to the images under the “View Image and Text” button. These facsimile manuscripts add an important new visual dimension to understanding these founding documents.

Tennessee's Founding and Landmark Documents website, featuring a facsimile letter to Governor John Sevier from U.S. Senators William Blount and William Cocke giving the status of Tennessee's admission as a state.

This collection includes proclamations, letters, journals, and land deeds. The earliest piece in this collection, the Royal Proclamation of 1763 issued by King George III, details the manners in which the North American interior colonies should be governed, concerning interactions with the Native Americans and rewards for faithful service during the French and Indian War. The 1775 Watauga Purchase recounts the changing ownership of land around the Holston and Watauga Rivers; the 1796 letter from Representatives William Blount and William Cocke to Governor John Sevier details Tennessee’s passage to statehood.

Digitizing these materials was imperative to preservation efforts at the Tennessee State Library and Archives. Because of the fragility and significance of these documents, they are handled very rarely and not often available for viewing. Making them available online allows for increased access by all.

Journal documenting the 1779-1780 river voyage of Col. John Donelson and others. Although historians dispute the journal's age and authorship, it has long been of interest to those who study Tennessee history. It is a firsthand account of the Donelson party's river journey to found the first permanent settlement to the west of the Appalachians.

Transcribing documents is a very time consuming and laborious process, but it is very useful in quickly learning topics within a manuscript and allows the user to search the manuscript, something you can’t do with handwritten materials on their own. Transcriptions make manuscript study possible for many scholars unable to gain access to the worn and collapsing original manuscripts, as is the case with Tennessee’s founding documents. While the transcriptions to these items are available online, the high quality facsimile images of the manuscripts still manage to capture old pencil marks, stains, watermarks, and a number of important details critical to textual scholarship. Because of the clarity of the images and the ability to enlarge any section the reader desires, the transcriptions and images also make any difficult handwriting easier to read for students and users unaccustomed to reading eighteenth and nineteenth-century script.

These landmark documents are available for everyone to search, study, and download. There is even a convenient PDF packet that allows you to download and print the entire document.

In the future, this website will offer additional installments of Tennessee’s recorded heritage from the 1830s to the Civil War and beyond.

To find out more, browse through Tennessee’s Founding and Landmark Documents and immerse yourself in the captivating world of Tennessee State History.

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

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

A Retrospective on ‘The Nashville Retrospect’

Newspapers are sometimes called the first drafts of history. And for the last five years, Allen Forkum has been trying to make sure Nashvillians don’t forget what those first drafts looked like.

Forkum is the editor and publisher of The Nashville Retrospect, a monthly publication that reprints historic articles from Middle Tennessee newspapers, some of which date back 200 years or more. The Nashville Retrospect also features essays by local historians and remembrances from longtime residents.

On June 21, Forkum will tell the story of his newspaper during a free workshop at the Tennessee State Library and Archives (TSLA). The workshop will be held from 9:30 a.m. until 11 a.m. that day in TSLA’s auditorium. TSLA’s building is located at 403 Seventh Avenue North, just west of the State Capitol building in downtown Nashville.

Forkum, who grew up in Mt. Juliet, has been in the publishing business since 1988. He became interested in local history while doing research on his 100-year-old house in the Belmont area. He launched The Nashville Retrospect in 2009. Much of his personal research is conducted at TSLA.

Although the workshop is free and open to the public, reservations are required due to limited seating. People can register for the workshop by telephone at (615) 741-2764 or by e-mail at

Parking is available in front, beside and behind the TSLA building.

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

Friday, May 23, 2014

Honoring our military on Memorial Day

Monday is Memorial Day, so in recognition of the men and women who serve and have served in the United States armed forces, we offer this pictorial tribute from the collections of the Tennessee State Library and Archives featured in our online exhibit, "The Volunteer State Goes to War: A Salute to Tennessee Veterans."

194th Military Police Security Platoon on Vung Chua Mountain poses before patrol. Qui Nhơn, Vietnam, 1969-1970. This photo is one of many featured in the Christoper D. Ammons Papers. Ammons' photographs show details of the daily life of soldiers in Vietnam.

Christoper D. Ammons Papers. Tennessee State Library and Archives.

Hardy A. Mitchener, Jr., of Nashville, left for Europe to serve his country during World War II on April 3, 1944. He was a navigator on board a B-17G nicknamed Li'l Ginny when Mitchener and his crew mates were shot down by enemy fighters on May 30, 1944 during a mission to bomb a German aircraft plant in Oschersleben. The Jenny Lee pictured here is a different B-17 from the one they were flying when shot down. One of Mitchener's crew mates died in the crash. The rest were captured and imprisoned. They were later rescued and returned home from the war. While Mitchener avoided physical injury during the war, he died a few short years later in 1957 from cancer. He was only 38 years old.

Hardy A. Mitchener, Jr. Collection. Tennessee State Library and Archives.

The cessation of hostilities on the Western Front during World War I took effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month — 11:00 a.m., November 11, 1918. This photograph of Brigadier General Edward L. King and his officers was taken in France just after the Armistice went into effect on November 11, 1918. Among those pictured is Colonel Luke Lea, 114th Field Artillery. For his role in the war, Lea was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal. Lea was also one of the founders of the American Legion in 1919, the founder of the Nashville Tennessean as its first editor and publisher, and was a prominent and powerful politician in the state of Tennessee, having served in the United States Senate from 1911 to 1917.

Luke Lea Papers, Tennessee State Library and Archives.

Tennessee may have been the most divided state in the Civil War, for its different regions and competing ideologies battled over whether to join other Southern states in seceding or to remain in the Union. From 1861 to 1865 the state was ravaged by the war as Confederate and Union forces fought over 3,200 battles and skirmishes here. In the years that followed this bloody conflict, veterans groups from both North and South sought unity through reunions which took place throughout the nation. In this photograph Civil War veterans gather in front of the Hermitage Hotel in Nashville for a reunion on July 23, 1925.

John P. Hickman Civil War Collection. Tennessee State Library and Archives.

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

Monday, May 5, 2014

Security crucial to TSLA holdings...

The Tennessee State Library and Archives is the repository for all state documents. Tennessee’s three constitutions, all legislative acts, all of the governors' papers, collections containing documents from Tennessee’s three presidents – Jackson, Johnson and Polk....and countless irreplaceable documents and maps are housed in this facility. Because of the uniqueness of this facility, including the necessary security for the collections and controlled temperature and humidity requirements for archival storage, it is imperative that in addition to securing the building, critical building systems must be monitored 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Walden Security Supervisor Team - Back Row Left to Right: Mark Strickland, Kenneth Choate, George Ball, Jovanta Turner, Albert Thenthirath, Eric Crawford Front Row Left to Right: Larry Scarbrough, Timothy Pullin, Jonathan Rollison, Not Pictured: Angela Parrish.

In order to meet these needs the Facilities Management Section of TSLA has established a security contract that provides security officers training specifically to meet the building's specific requirements. Walden Security was awarded the contract and leading the Walden Security team of officers is none other than Walden’s “Security Officer of the Year”, Mr. Kenneth (Casey) Choate. We are fortunate to have such a distinguished employee supervising our security officers and congratulate Casey in being recognized with this award.

In the first of a series of training sessions, the Walden Security supervisor team took part in a training walk-through for the security rounds that their security officers conduct nightly. This training session was the first of three to be conducted. Next week we will see the "security flex team". These officers will be informed of the special needs required by the Library and Archives in the event their presence is necessary for filling shifts. The third session will be for the security officers routinely assigned to the Library and Archives.

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

Friday, May 2, 2014

Take a step back in time through TSLA's Arts, Crafts, and Folklife Photographs

As the Tennessee Craft Festival gets underway this weekend, we are reminded of Tennessee’s fine craft tradition and our state’s handmade legacy in the local fine craft movement. The Tennessee State Library and Archives' collection, Arts, Crafts, and Folklife Photographs is a beautiful collection of images revealing this rich Appalachian tradition of arts and crafts.

Many photographs in this collection illustrate the Appalachian legacy of handicrafts, such as woodworking, broom making, chair making, weaving, sewing, whittling, and pottery.

The photographs in this collection are only a small selection from Record Group 82: the Tennessee Department of Conservation Photograph Collection, 1937-1976. The Tennessee Department of Conservation (TDOC) was established “to work toward a program of restoration, development and conservation of our renewable and non-renewable natural resources.” Encompassing various existing divisions and commissions, TDOC added several other divisions, including a “Conservation Education Section.” A new magazine, Tennessee Wildlife (today known as The Tennessee Conservationist), was created by TDOC as a forum for sportsmen’s interests and to showcase Tennessee’s natural and cultural history.

The most efficient way of highlighting this natural and cultural history was by publishing images taken across the state. TDOC hired its first photographer, Paul A. Moore, in 1937. Other photographers employed by this department over the years were James L. Bailey, Wallace Danley, Al Marsh, Dan Grice, Bill Shipley, Bob Ferguson, Dave Murrian, Bill Cox, Aubrey Watson, Charles Jackson, George Hornal, Jim Robertson, and Tim Frazier.

Two Women Making Corn Shuck Dolls and Baskets. TeVA Arts, Crafts, and Folklife Photograph Collection.

Several of the photographs in this collection portray families or other groups of people engaged in these representative crafts or other pursuits. Tasks such as basket weaving or chair making were often embraced by all members of a family. This shared experience provided income for the family unit as well as important social interaction with one another in the days before television, radio, and other diversions. This family or other group interaction can be seen in several photographs, such as the men splitting logs together or the ladies sewing baseballs with one another.

The region experienced resurgence in the craft tradition in the 1890s, as outsiders “discovered” Appalachian culture. Several folk schools were established in the early 20th century to foster the native craft tradition. As several photographs in this series illustrate, native Southern Highlanders realized the market for the products that outsiders considered intriguing forms of folk art. Several of the images in this series show individuals demonstrating their crafts to others, perhaps with intention to sell such items as baskets, pottery, etc.

The images in this digital collection, depicting individuals and cultural traditions throughout the Appalachian region of the state, are a selection of photographs taken from the Arts, Crafts, and Folklife series of Record Group 82: Tennessee Department of Conservation Photograph Collection, 1937-1976. Record Record Group 82 as a whole (grouped into 33 series) consists of over 11,000 photographic images and about 21,000 negatives. The record group was retrieved by Mr. Mack S. Pritchard, State Archaeologist, and transferred to the Tennessee State Library and Archives in the early 1970s. View some of the photographs online or stop by to see more!

The Tennessee State Library and Archives is located at 403 Seventh Avenue North, directly west of the State Capitol building in downtown Nashville. TSLA is open Tuesdays through Saturdays, from 8 a.m. until 4:30 p.m., with the exception of state holidays. Parking is available in front, behind and beside the building.

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

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Preservation Week reminds us of the importance of microfilm...

April 27 through May 3 marks this year's annual observance of Preservation Week, a week long opportunity to give libraries, archives and other institutions the chance to connect our communities through events, activities, and resources that highlight what we can do, individually and together, to preserve our personal and shared collections.

One important preservation activity of the Tennessee State Library and Archives (TSLA) is our microfilm processing program. TSLA has been producing and duplicating microfilm for over 60 years. Although much of what we film is from our own collections, we also often film county records as a part of a mutually beneficial special project to ensure preservation standards. In return, local public libraries receive copies of the microfilm, and we store copies for use by TSLA patrons, as well as maintaining the negatives in our climate-controlled vault.

Preserving Microfilm

Microfilm processing is a highly detailed, technical process. While there are workshops and seminars for microfilm training, microfilm technicians primarily learn their trade through an apprenticeship.

Keeping a set of duplicates at an off-site storage facility is one of the safest ways to ensure the survival of your records, especially in the case of theft, flood or fire. The six primary groups of records we film are:

  • Local County Permanent Records
  • County Loose Records Special Projects
  • TSLA Manuscript Collections
  • State Agency Record Groups
  • Collections on loan for microfilming
  • Newspapers

After each document organized, targeted and photographed, our microfilm technician preps the film and runs it through our microfilm processor. This process is tedious and delicate- the smallest mistake could ruin the exposure of a roll of film. TSLA is fortunate to have such highly skilled microfilm technicians.

Digital versus Film

Though there are a vast number of digital preservation mediums, microfilm is still considered the best long-term form of preservation for historic records. While digital files are useful and often more accessible to patrons, the files are subject to “bit rot” and eventual obsolescence. If kept in a proper environment, microfilm will last approximately 300 to 500 years, and even if all microfilm readers were destroyed, the information on the rolls could be accessed by simply holding the film up to a light with a magnifier. TSLA proudly maintains the stewardship of Tennessee’s treasures, and, through microfilming our collections, ensures the records will be available to our patrons for hundreds of years. TSLA has produced nearly 200,000 reels of microfilm negatives since its inception, and produces more each year.

After a roll of microfilm is processed, a quality control inspection is given, which includes a visual inspection that consists of a density and resolution check, as well as determining if there was a camera problem or operator error. In addition to methylene blue tests, this inspection ensures the film meets ANSI/AIIM standards.

Public Availability

Microfilming also allows us to sell (at cost) copies of our rolls to our patrons, which in turn allows patrons to study the film at their local archives or libraries. While not everything is available for sale due to various restrictions, many different types of records are available for purchase such as county records, newspapers, and manuscript collections. 35mm rolls are currently $25 a piece, while 16mm rolls are $20 a piece. You can browse our collections at and if you have any questions about purchasing microfilm please call 615-741-2997.

The negatives we produce are stored in our secure vault, which is kept at 55 degrees Fahrenheit and below 45 percent humidity to ensure the long-term survival of the film.

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