Friday, August 10, 2018

Old Hickory Gunpowder Plant

By Jack Humphrey

Just over a century ago, in January 1918, the United States Government signed a contract with the DuPont Engineering Company to build and operate a smokeless gunpowder plant, located northeast of Nashville at Hadley’s Bend along the Cumberland River, for the Allied War effort. The government agreed to cover construction costs, a figure somewhere in the region of $83 million to $90 million, while DuPont received one $1 in compensation. While this might seem low, DuPont “realized profits on its expenditures for the plant and its operation.” When the Armistice was signed Nov. 11, 1918, the plant was just shy of completion and producing over half a million pounds of smokeless powder per day. The plant, which was the largest munitions plant in the world at the time of operation, was a remarkable feat of engineering, which has shaped the region of middle Tennessee.

After the contract was signed, plant construction began almost immediately. In February 1918, workers cleared land, “macadamized” roads, and laid miles of train track. On March 4, 1918, workers broke ground for the plant and by July 2, 1918, powder was being manufactured. DuPont hailed this achievement stating that “a new world’s record for speed was established. This was 116 days after breaking ground.” By the time of the Armistice, the plant was 96 days ahead of schedule, a feat DuPont noted was “truly a wonderful record.” To appreciate the sheer scale of operations, the plant’s seven steam turbo generators had the capacity to produce more electricity than Nashville required “for all its lights, power and street railways.” Moreover, the refrigeration section of the plant, which at the time was the largest of its kind anywhere in the world, had the capacity to make 3.2 million pounds of ice every 24 hours; an amount “sufficient to supply a city of 1 million people.” Simply put, the Old Hickory gunpowder plant was a massive operation.

Panoramic image of the Power House on Cinder Road. In the foreground are segregated outhouses.
Image courtesy of the Tennessee State Library and Archives.

In order to accommodate the tens of thousands of laborers, both domestic and foreign, who built and operated the plant, DuPont arranged the construction of what became known as the “village,” which featured both temporary and permanent housing. The former was reserved for unskilled/common workers while the latter for skilled/senior workers. It is important to note that housing was segregated according to race. For instance, the Mexican workforce and their families lived in the “Mexican Village” away from African-American, Native-American and white workers. In total, there were 3,867 buildings in the “village” including schools, churches, mess halls, an open-air theater, hotels, a bank and YMCA; again, many of these facilities were segregated along racial lines. In order to impress the size of workforce, in August 1918, the “village” mess halls served over 1,000,000 meals, which was “as large as that of the Commissary Department in the Panama Canal Zone during six months when the Canal Construction work was at its height.” While the government had acquired 5,600 acres of land at Hadley’s Bend, for the plant and “village,” it appears that only 4,706 acres was developed. Regardless, this was a massive undertaking whereby so much was accomplished in such a short space of time.

An image of employee housing southeast from Hadley & 12th.
Image courtesy of the Tennessee State Library and Archives.

While it appears that there were relatively few accidents and fatal injuries during the construction of the plant and “village,” one of the deadliest train disasters in American history involved plant workers. On the morning of July 9, 1918, two trains collided near Haring Road in Nashville, Tennessee, resulting in tragedy. According to the Nashville Tennessean 121 people died while another 57 were injured. Victims included First World War veterans and predominantly African-American plant workers.

Front page of the Nashville Tennessean July 10, 1918.
Image courtesy of the Tennessee State Library and Archives.

After the war, DuPont ceased powder production at Old Hickory. In 1920, the Nashville Industrial Corporation acquired the plant for around $3.5 million, a deal which ultimately saw Ernest C. Morse, the Director of Sales for the War Department, “indicted by a grand jury for fraud.” In 1923, DuPont returned to Old Hickory purchasing the plant site and a large part of the “village” The production of rayon began in 1925 while cellophane production began toward the end of the decade. DuPont renamed the community Old Hickory in honor of Andrew Jackson and operated it as a company town.

An aerial view of the DuPont facilities at Old Hickory taken some time during the 1930s.
Image courtesy of the Tennessee State Library and Archives.

Anyone eager to learn more about, or see stunning images of, the Old Hickory Gunpowder Plant need look no further than the Tennessee State Library and Archives, which has an online collection of photographs in the Tennessee Virtual Archive (TeVA). During the summer of 2018, I was fortunate enough to be involved in the creation of this collection. It was truly remarkable to understand more about the origins of the present-day community of Old Hickory and appreciate the impact the region had on the Allied war effort.

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

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Library and Archives to Host its First Theatrical Performance “The Ryman Diaries”

History has inspired a number of popular interpretations. In August, the Tennessee State Library and Archives will host a unique event as part of its ongoing workshop series.

Award-winning actor/playwright/director Tom Dolan and author/musician/educator Debbie Mathis Watts portray Music City legends Captain Tom Ryman and Bettie Baugh Ryman in the multimedia musical stage play "The Ryman Diaries."

Interior of Ryman Auditorium taken from back of balcony, showing stage and seats.
Image: Tennessee Virtual Archive

The historical drama depicts the life and times of Cumberland riverboat captain Tom Ryman as told through the eyes of his wife Bettie Baugh Ryman. Based on historical research gathered at archival institutions, including the Library and Archives, the story highlights their unlikely romance, marriage, entrepreneurship, raising seven children on a riverboat, their Christian conversion at a tent meeting and the building of the Union Gospel Tabernacle.

"The Library and Archives is constantly finding new ways for Tennesseans to fully engage with our rich history. I encourage everyone to reserve their seat now for this special addition to our workshop series," said Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett.

In play’s first act, the audience meets a young Tom Ryman, entrepreneur on the Cumberland River and Bettie Baugh, a debutante, growing up in Franklin. Both survived the Battle of Franklin when a cannonball comes through the window of the family home. Each tells of their adventures during the Civil War and how fate has love, romance and a history-making event planned for them.

The performance will take place from 9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. CDT Saturday, Aug. 18, in the Library and Archives auditorium. The Library and Archives is located at 403 Seventh Ave. N., directly west of the Tennessee State Capitol in downtown Nashville. Free parking is available around the Library and Archives building.

Although the presentation is free and open to the public, registration is required due to seating limitations in the auditorium. To reserve seats, please visit

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

New Look for Tennessee Electronic Library but same great, free resources!

By Andrea Zielke

The Tennessee State Library and Archives is excited to announce that the Tennessee Electronic Library (TEL) has a brand-new website -- complete with a fresh look and feel, clear navigation and a new logo. Don’t worry, though; TEL still has the same great, free resources available for all Tennesseans.

The Tennessee Electronic Library (TEL) is a virtual library that you can access from your home computer, school computer lab or smartphone. With this new website, we hope to make it even easier to find quality resources not available in a regular web search. Now it should be even easier to navigate to homework help, consumer health information, business resources, academic and civil service test preparation help and genealogy and family history sources and more!

Some of the highlights of the new website include:

  • New design and logo 
  • Supportive information and guides for all resources 
  • Mobile responsive 
  • Easier navigation 
  • Improved web accessibility

TEL can be found at As you dive into all the TEL resources, if you have any feedback on the website, we would love to hear from you! Please provide your comments and suggestions through the Feedback link.

The Tennessee Electronic Library is made possible through funding provided by the General Assembly of the State of Tennessee and the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services. TEL is administered by the Tennessee State Library and Archives, a division of the Tennessee Secretary of State’s office.

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

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

What’s that smell?: #ArchivistProblems

By Heather Adkins

There is nothing quite like the smell of a brand-new book. The crisp pages and the new ink can send the senses reeling. Some archivists and librarians would also say there is nothing like the smell of older books as well, though taking a deep breath of the old stock might bring on the coughing and wheezing associated with the accompanying layer of dust. But what happens when walking through the stacks you take a deep breath and – uh oh – that’s not supposed to smell like that!

In the best of circumstances, archivists can control the environment in which documents are kept. However, there is still a degree of natural decay that different record mediums go through over their lifetime. In particular, when laminate and microfilm deteriorate they produce a strong vinegar or ammonia odor, called vinegar syndrome. Unfortunately, once vinegar syndrome starts, it cannot be stopped and any nearby collections are at risk as the off-gassing process may cause stable records to begin deteriorating.

This laminated document is part of a 1837 petition. The translucent lamination material is visible around the edge of the document and in the gap by signature fifteen.
Record Group 60. Tennessee State Library and Archives

Lamination as a means of stabilizing, repairing, and strengthening papers on a large scale was popular from the 1930s through the 1970s. The process involved deacidifying a document, layering it between tissue and thin sheets of plastic, and fusing them together in a heated process. [WARNING! Do not laminate your precious records! You would not use heat or tape to preserve your records, so why laminate them?] The most popular laminate, cellulose acetate, does its job in the short term – it strengthens the records it encapsulates. However, it is also inherently unstable and causes irreparable damage to the record. Cellulose acetate decomposes through a chemical reaction that causes the bonds of the cellulose acetate molecule to break down and release acetic acid (signified by the vinegar odor). Not only does lamination warp documents with heat and chemical decay, it could exacerbate the problems the process was meant to fix. If those issues are not reason enough, the long-term deterioration of laminate further puts documents at risk. Remember, lamination drives the laminate material into the paper document, and as the laminate breaks down, the document will suffer.

Microfilm suffering from vinegar syndrome, Tennessee State Library and Archives.

Microfilm went through several phases of material, including acetate (popular from the 1920s to the 1980s). Acetate microfilm goes through a degradation process similar to lamination, producing the vinegar or ammonia odor. As with lamination, there is no way to stop the deterioration of acetate microfilm once it starts. However, acetate microfilm has a “shelf life” of approximately 100 years, meaning there is time to replicate the film before its images are completely lost. Most replicas are transferred to the more stable polyester film. Polyester microfilm gained popularity beginning in the 1970s and continues to be the standard. It is exceptionally stable and has a life expectancy of 500 years, with proper environment and treatment.

If vinegar syndrome is irreversible, what can you do to protect your collection?

  • First, monitor and improve (if needed) the storage environment. Deterioration can be moderately slowed (not reversed) in an environment that is dry and cool.

  • Second, keep watch! All acetate film and cellulose acetate laminate are subject to deterioration. Watch for discoloration or possibly obtain acid-detection tests that will change color when acetic acid is released. And of course, be mindful and take action when you smell that vinegar.

  • Third, quarantine infected items – vinegar syndrome spreads!

  • Finally, duplicate items to retain a copy of the records when the original eventually deteriorates.

Further reading:

“Guidelines for the Care of Works on Paper with Cellulose Acetate Lamination,” Artwork Preservation Project, Department of Anthropology, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution,

Mary Lynn Ritzenthaler, Preserving Archives and Manuscripts (2nd ed.), (Society of American Archivists: Archives Fundamentals II Series).

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

Friday, July 13, 2018

The Cruise of the Good Ship Enigma

By Susan Gordon

Being a Chronicle of the Scandalous Maritime Performance of Two Scotchmen, Two Englishmen and Two Americans

July 1-13, 1909

Buried in the Tennessee Historical Society Miscellaneous Papers (T-200), the ship’s logbook has no recorded provenance, and there is no explanation of why it resides in the THS collections. But lucky it is for those who appreciate British humor or, should we say, humour. The yarn was written as a witty remembrance of an equally amusing sail that was more than a century ago.

Written by six adventurers and neatly typed as a retrospect, this logbook is a jewel of lighthearted satire. The smart preface states that should the…

“…before mentioned worthies [peruse] this astounding volume, let him remember that the truth has prevailed only when more interesting than fiction.”

The seafarers left Portsmouth, England, July 1, 1909, rounded the Isle of Wight and Channel Islands, anchored at Cherbourg, and returned to England July 13. The sum of them, fewer than what had set sail, had been deserted at various ports along the way. Four defectors excused themselves from the voyage for a number of reasons--including romance.

Readers beware! The log is dotted with nonsensical references to wild animals and other curiosities.

Excerpt of the English Channel from a World War II newsmap, 1944. WWII Newsmaps, Tennessee State Library and Archives. Click here to view full map in the Tennessee Virtual Archive.

The title page presages their antics:

Willie Russell - Popularly known as McTavish, a braw brecht man frae the Heelands.

Major Monson - The warlike defender of “An Englishman’s Home.”

Jack King - The Straw Partition Magnate.

John Joass - The notorious defacer of our public thoroughfares.

Doc Lecron - The bloodthirsty torturer of Dental fame.

Dan Huntington - The Jerry Building King.

On Day One, the ship slipped her moorings with “superhuman effort,” and the travelers entertained themselves with a concert of scampish airs.

By nightfall, they had already lost their bearings, the vessel lying an unknown distance from their first important landmark: the Needles, tall pointed chalk stacks rising from the sea off the coast of Isle of Wight.

The evening of the second day was sublime. The sea was calm and the moon was full. On the third watch they again pronounced the ship lost.

“We commenced our arduous duties by lashing the tiller and comfortably ensconcing ourselves in the deck chairs - wind nil, the ostrich being fatigue.”

Next day the voyagers frisked in the sea, only to clamber back to drier climes aboard. Dan, above in the ship’s rigging, sighted the island of Alderney (Guernsey), his prize declared to be a round of drinks.

“Inasmuch as he was aloft, these were at once consumed by his friends.”

Upon spotting Alderney, the crew was yet out of sight of the Casquets Lights, the three historic lighthouses that guide sailors away from the treacherous rocks. They determined that their position was…

“…somewhere S & W but maybe N & E of the Casquets.”

By early afternoon the lighthouses were visible, but the sea began to rise and the mist made vision difficult. At mid-Channel a pigeon lit on the deck--the same one that had joined them for an earlier ride.

The pigeon that twice joined the cruise from the Journal of the cruise of the Good Ship Enigma, 1909. Tennessee Historical Society Miscellaneous Files (T-200), Tennessee State Library and Archives.

Recognizing the lighthouse on the Hanois reefs dead ahead, the travelers figured their location directly over the rockiest shoals. “We put about at once with a slight oath… and cleared the point.”

Next stop was St. Peter’s Port (Guernsey). There, they “reveled in the sunshine and all the comforts of a first class hotel.” Exploring the island revived their spirits. Still at St. Peter’s July 5, the resuscitated crew enjoyed swimming and diving from the ship…

“…a performance which the Harbour Master advised us was liable to a penalty of ten shillings per head. (See Armadillo)”

After provisioning their craft with lobsters and other delectables, they put out to sea.

Sailing the Jersey Channel was speedy, though wee arguments slightly colored the crossing. More trouble on their approach to the harbor where a red flag was run up.

“We at once put about when a voice from a smack called out, ‘Can’t you see that flag you idiot!’”

Our dapper gents aboard the launch from the Journal of the cruise of the Good Ship Enigma, 1909. Tennessee Historical Society Miscellaneous Files (T-200), Tennessee State Library and Archives.

Upon landfall at St. Martin (Jersey), the crew made a beeline to the luxury hotel Pomme d' Or. Having celebrated completion of the first leg of the voyage, they boarded a train to…

“…the historic pile known as Mount Orgueil [castle]. The undaunted crew went boldly forward to investigate the natural beauties of the situation and might be presently observed bounding from crag to crag (See Mountain Goats.)”

“A beautiful specimen of the Jersey Lily” advised them on the best sightseeing. Then it was off for lunch at The Helfine, where the proprietor’s daughter met with the crew’s approval.

“We were joined by a party of buxom girls, presumable of the ‘Made in Germany’ brand.”

The Germans objected to smoking which “rather damped [the Captain’s] ardour,” but a certain barmaid easily captured his heart.

“By the time he had consumed a glass of green mint, he considered himself one of the family (For subsequent proceedings see Gorilla).”

On July 7, the cruise was interrupted by troubling seas. Willie did not like the height of the waves, and Doc remarked on their unnatural color.

“Sail’s off, said Dan heaving a sigh of relief, his feet beginning once again to attain their normal temperature… [The men] sallied forth one by one upon their usual hunt. (See Alligator)”

Then it was off to the famous lighthouse at Corbiere, on the Jersey coast. The Captain, discovering a pool of clear water…

“…removed his clothing and plunged in... The living inhabitants of the pool, such as crabs, eels, etc., were immediately struck dead. Presumably poisoned (See Grocer).”

Lunch on the train was memorable for…

“…an alluring French waitress [who caused] their neck mechanisms [to be] greatly disordered.”

At St. Aubyn (Normandy), the Captain enthusiastically performed the “Bar Stangled Spanner.”

On the eighth, they undertook an expedition to the Devil’s Hole crater (Jersey) in the company of a “fair visitor” who had every member of the crew vying for her attention.

Hamming it up for the camera from the Journal of the cruise of the Good Ship Enigma, 1909. Tennessee Historical Society Miscellaneous Files (T-200), Tennessee State Library and Archives.

Morning broke bright on the ninth, and the crew sprung to life at the sight of two ladies on the quay. Following breakfast were “sparkling flashes of wit and repartee.” Seeking new adventures, the crew readied the ship for sail.

“Our last impression of the island was a lonely white figure showing every sign of dejection, while in the background rejoicings were in progress among the aborigines.”

They left St. Helier (Jersey) in a heavy sea, rounded the Cape of La Hague in northwestern France and made port at Cherbourg. They hastened to the Café de Paris before indulging in games of chance at the casino. The results were disastrous.

“Socially, however, all was merry and bright (See Paupers). What followed is wrapped in the mists of impenetrable obscurity.”

The mammoth gale which delayed their departure was thought to be “due to the Trade winds (See Ostrich),” so they made the best of another day ashore. The crew spent most of the time sleeping under a tree overlooking the harbor. John left for Paris, and “a deep gloom settled over the crew, now only half of its original size.” Three sailors remained.

Storm’s up! The crew wearing their oilskins from the Journal of the cruise of the Good Ship Enigma, 1909. Tennessee Historical Society Miscellaneous Files (T-200), Tennessee State Library and Archives.

The crew next set a course for St. Catherine’s Point (Isle of Wight). With the sight of land on the skyline…

“…great was the amazement of the crew to discover that it was actually the point we were aiming at.”

During the run from Cherbourg to Isle of Wight…

“…the greatest instance of literary and [poetic] inspiration was made…and is here set forth.”

Their literary pièce de résistance, a takeoff on the noteworthy Samuel Taylor Coleridge poem, was titled “The Ryme of the Three Mariners.” For poetry’s sake, “Ryme” should be read tongue in cheek.

Passage to Southampton resulted in the loss of McTavish, which was “well for McTavish and better for the Crew.” This departure left Bob and Dan, who were off to London for a refit.

The voyage had come to an end, and the crew of the Good Ship “Enigma” returned to their homes.

“One truth… it is safe to place upon the record--a better Crew, better fellows or better friends never sailed a ship or stayed ashore.”

Crew of the Good Ship “Enigma” from the Journal of the cruise of the Good Ship Enigma, 1909. Tennessee Historical Society Miscellaneous Files (T-200), Tennessee State Library and Archives.

The log is part of the Tennessee Historical Society Miscellaneous Files (T-200) at the Tennessee State Library and Archives.

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

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Tennessee Students Excel at National History Day

Twelve Tennessee students took top honors at the 2018 National History Day competition. In total, 58 middle and high school students represented Tennessee in the contest, which allows students to showcase their creativity and research skills by developing projects with historical themes.

The theme of this year's contest was “Conflict and Compromise in History.” The students were able to compete at National History Day by winning medals at the state contest, Tennessee History Day, which is organized by the Tennessee Historical Society and co-sponsored by the Tennessee Secretary of State's office and Humanities Tennessee.

The honorees from Tennessee are:

First place, Senior Individual Paper (National History Academy)

Muadth Malley
The Lebanese Civil War and the Taif Accord: Conflict and Compromise Engendered by Institutionalized Sectarianism
Pleasant View School, Memphis
Teacher: Andre Clarke

First place, Junior Group Performance

Luke Hutchinson, Liam Garris, Ian Boghani
I Will Survive: The Conflicts and Compromises of the Native American Boarding Schools
Clayton-Bradley Academy, Maryville
Teacher: Liz Shugart

Third place, Junior Group Performance

Riley Whitecotton, Emerson Kidd-Benthall, Tara Shealy
Sendler's List: The Unspeakable Conflict and Ultimate Compromise of Irena Sendler
Clayton-Bradley Academy, Maryville
Teacher: Nicole Whitecotton

Fourth place, Junior Individual Documentary (Outstanding State Entry, Junior Division)

Shelby McNeal
The Walker Sisters: Conflict and Compromise in the Smoky Mountains
Clayton-Bradley Academy, Maryville
Teacher: Nicole Whitecotton

Fifth place, Senior Group Documentary (Outstanding State Entry, Senior Division)

John David Cobb, Tate Greene
Last Days in the Mountains: Conflict, Compromise and the End of a Smoky Mountain Community
Clayton-Bradley Academy, Maryville
Teacher: Liz Shugart

Fifth place, Senior Group Exhibit

Ashlynn Malone, Haley Hurst
Compromise to Avoid Conflict: The Civil Rights Movement in Knoxville
Sevier County High School, Sevierville
Teacher: Rebecca Byrd

“I'm proud of our students for representing Tennessee so well,” Secretary of State Tre Hargett said. “By taking home honors in this national competition, our students demonstrated their expert knowledge in their chosen topics, and I have no doubt they will carry this experience with them for years to come.”

“Our outstanding performance this year is a direct result of the many hours of hard work the students invested in their research,” said Tennessee History Day coordinator Jennifer C. Core. “Our students continued to work on their entries even after school ended for the semester, and their efforts were rewarded.”

Each fall, students and teachers nationwide begin work on the yearlong curriculum, which starts with competitions held in individual schools. The winners there advance to district, state and eventually the national competition. Nationwide, the History Day program includes more than a half million students annually from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, American Samoa and Department of Defense Schools. The program engages 9,500 students across the state of Tennessee.

For more information about National History Day or Tennessee History Day, please visit

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

Monday, June 18, 2018

"Libraries Rock!" summer reading programs offered by Tennessee Library for Accessible Books and Media

By Heather Fach

Many libraries across the state host summer programs every year, but did you know you can attend summer programs at the Tennessee Library for Accessible Books and Media without ever leaving home?

This summer, we’ll be exploring the world of music as we remind ourselves that “Libraries Rock!” Two professional musicians, trombonist Derek Hawkes of the Nashville Symphony and singer/songwriter Rory Hoffman, will speak June 20 and July 18, respectively, and answer questions about life as working musicians. On June 27 and July 25, patrons can join a virtual playlist party and share their favorite Spotify or Pandora tracks. And, on July 11, we’ll make a stylish and unique headphone wrap craft using everyday materials (register to receive a kit!) These programs are designed for teens aged 13-18, but anyone is welcome to join.

We have programs for children and adults, and all of our programs are free and open to all. Register for summer programs at the Tennessee Library for Accessible Books and Media here: Call (800)342-3308 or (615)741-3915 to join in!

Libraries rock, and so do you…so come join us this summer!

Tennessee Library for Accessible Books and Media is a section of the Tennessee State Library and Archives and the Office of Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Become A Master Local Historian!

The Tennessee State Library and Archives, American Association for State and Local History, and Humanities Tennessee offer a new three-part pilot program to become a Master Local Historian

PROGRAM: Three-week Master Local Historian pilot program offered by the Tennessee State Library and Archives in collaboration with the American Association of State and Local History and Humanities Tennessee

DATE: 3:00 to 6:00 p.m., Monday June 25, July 9 and 16, 2018

LOCATION: Tennessee State Library & Archives, 403 7th Ave. North Nashville, TN 37243

ADMISSION: FREE | Registration is required and limited to 20 participants

The Tennessee State Library and Archives, in collaboration with the American Association for State and Local History and Humanities Tennessee, invites you to participate in a new pilot program called MASTER LOCAL HISTORIANS. If you enjoy learning, thinking, discussing, reading, and writing about history then this program is for you!

Master Local Historians provides an opportunity to learn about the craft of the historian. What is historical thinking, and why does it matter? What sources are available to help advance your research? How do you care for artifacts and photographs in your own personal collection? With guidance from history professionals, Master Local Historians teaches how historians approach questions about the past and provides the tools to pursue a personally meaningful history project, such as community, buildings, church, or family history.

Tennessee is the first state to pilot the Master Local Historians program. Individuals who register for the course will participate in three, 3-hour sessions beginning June 25, 2018. Each session will take on a different topic with the goal of preparing you to begin your investigation of local history:

3:00-6:00 p.m., Monday, June 25: “The Power of Historical Thinking”

  • Understand historical thinking
  • Understand the relevance of good local history
  • Learn how to evaluate interpretive products of local history
  • Grasp the vocabulary, skills, and process of structuring a local history project
  • Share information about local history projects on which you already may be working
  • Instructors-Myers Brown, Archivist, Tennessee State Library & Archives and Dr. Erica Hayden, Trevecca Nazarene University

 3:00-6:00 p.m., Monday, July 9: “Source and Resources”
  • Learn about the research assets at online and brick-and-mortar libraries and archives, and meet key staff at each 
  • Learn how to search for secondary and primary sources at those sites 
  • Learn how to get started with genealogy and family history research 
  • Match a research strategy to a research question 
  • Differentiate secondary from primary sources Identify evidence in sources 
  • Evaluate conflicts among evidence, in primary resources 
  • Instructors-Myers Brown and Sara Horne, Archivists, Tennessee State Library & Archives 

3:00-6:00 p.m., Monday, July 16: “Collections: Their Care and Meaning”

  • Understand a public, curated collection Identify personal collections 
  • Gain an introductory understanding of collections care 
  • Understand that artifacts, costumes, correspondence, books, etc., are primary sources with meaning 
  • Instructors-Myers Brown, Archivist, and Carol Roberts, Conservator, Tennessee State Library & Archives

Sessions are interactive and discussion-based and provide a chance to not only learn from experts but float ideas, grapple with tricky questions, and learn the historian’s craft by doing.

If you are interested in participating in the Master Local Historians pilot, please contact Myers Brown at the Tennessee State Library & Archives. The pilot program is free, but registration is required by calling (615) 741-1883 or emailing Participation limited to 20 individuals committed to all three sessions.

Master Local Historians is a new program from the American Association for State and Local History, supported by grant funding from Humanities Tennessee and operated in partnership with the Tennessee State Library and Archives.

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

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Uplands (Cumberland County, Tenn.) Records Now Available to Researchers

By Lori Lockhart

May Hannah Cravath was born August 18, 1873, in Winona County, Minnesota. She was the daughter of Hannah Elizabeth “Eliza” Williams (1839-1907) and Bishop Milton Cravath (1835-1900). Dr. May spent her early childhood on a farm in Minnesota before moving with her family to “pioneer a homestead and tree claim” in Dakota Territory (now South Dakota). She completed high school at Carleton Academy in Northfield, Minnesota, before attending Carleton College from 1890-1893. Dr. May completed her B.A. at the University of North Dakota where she was valedictorian of her graduating class. She taught briefly at the University of North Dakota before receiving her medical degree from the University of Michigan Homeopathic Medical School in 1903. Dr. May set up a medical practice in Atlanta, Georgia. It is there, at church, where she met her husband, Edwin R. Wharton (1864-1920). The two were married August 7, 1906, in Fulton County, Georgia.

Dr. May Cravath Wharton (1873-1959) when she was attending college, ca. 1890s.
Uplands Records, Tennessee State Library and Archives

The Whartons moved to Cleveland, Ohio, in 1907 to run a settlement house. Edwin served as director and Dr. May worked as a physician. The Whartons moved to a New Hampshire farm in 1909. Dr. May had a private practice in New Hampshire and Edwin served in small churches in the area. In 1917, the Whartons moved to Pleasant Hill, Tennessee. Edwin took a position as principal of Pleasant Hill Academy. Dr. May served the academy’s staff and students as a physician and she also taught health classes. When the global flu epidemic came to Pleasant Hill in 1918-1919, Dr. May started serving local families outside of the school. Many times she traveled rough terrain on foot, horseback, muleback or (in rare occasions when there was a good enough trail) buggy. Dr. May developed a reputation among the mountain families as a caring and determined doctor. On Nov. 19, 1920, Dr. May’s husband died, and she began to make plans to return to New Hampshire. Clinton Anderson, along with other community members, brought Dr. May a petition signed by 50 families asking her to stay and be their doctor. She made the decision to stay in Pleasant Hill.

Dr. May Cravath Wharton (1873-1959) with a mule used to help her cover rough terrain to reach her patients, ca. 1920s.
Uplands Records, Tennessee State Library and Archives

On Aug. 7, 1921, Dr. May and Elizabeth Fletcher (an Art teacher at Pleasant Hill Academy) opened Sanex, a two-bed hospital. In November of that same year, Alice Adshead joined Dr. May and Ms. Fletcher in their endeavors. Ms. Adshead was a British born and Canadian trained registered nurse who Dr. May met at a North Carolina sanatorium. Dr. May had gone to the Carolina hospital for advanced study in the treatment of tuberculosis. In 1922, the three women chartered Uplands Cumberland Mountain Sanatorium and on Nov. 20, they opened an eight-bed hospital. By 1935, the endeavor had grown to a twenty-bed hospital with an operating room, surgical ward and maternity room. On May 17, 1937, Van Dyck House for the treatment of Tuberculosis was opened. In March 1950, Cumberland Medical Center in Crossville opened with a fifty-bed capacity. Dr. May’s last project was the opening of the nursing home that bears her name in 1957. Dr. May died November 19, 1959. She is buried in Pleasant Hill Cemetery.

Elizabeth Fletcher (1870-1951), Dr. May Cravath Wharton (1873-1959), and Alice Adshead (1888-1979), ca. 1940s.
Uplands Records, Tennessee State Library and Archives

A collection related to Dr. May is now available for research at the Tennessee State Library and Archives. The records consist of materials transferred from the archives of Uplands Retirement Village. The materials date between 1847 and 2005. The collection documents the life of Dr. May as well as the rise of Uplands Retirement Village and Cumberland Medical Center, with a portion of the materials relating to Pleasant Hill Academy and Pleasant Hill Community Church. The highlight of the assemblage is the 75 boxes of photographs, which include printed photographs, slides, negatives, contact sheets and scrapbooks.

Helen Lawson, Martha Bledsoe, Dr. H. F. Lawson, Dr. May Cravath Wharton (1873-1959), and Ova Dell Wood work with an unidentified patient in the Uplands Operating Room, ca. mid 1940s.
Uplands Records, Tennessee State Library and Archives

Interested researchers are invited to view the finding aid found here:

For information on how to access to this material, please contact the Library and Archives’ Public Services Section Reference Desk at or phone (615) 741-2764.

Dr. May’s autobiography, “Doctor Woman of the Cumberlands,” and “A History of Pleasant Hill Academy,” written by Emma Dodge, are also available to researchers. Please see the Library and Archives’ catalog for more details on these titles.

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

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Workshop Series -- It's Not All Online: Researching in Archives

A host of genealogy records are available at the click of a mouse, but researching solely online will reveal less than 10 percent of all the world’s genealogical records. On June 23, the Tennessee State Library and Archives will host a free workshop entitled “It’s Not All Online: Researching in Archives.”

Presenter Melissa Barker is a certified archives manager for the Houston County Archives and a professional genealogist who works with clients researching their Tennessee ancestors. Barker will discuss the importance of visiting an archive when seeking out records that are not online.

“This unique lecture will expose attendees to the world of genealogy records available at their local archives and will be a valuable resource for those interested in gaining hands-on research experience,” Secretary of State Tre Hargett said. “I encourage anyone interested to reserve their seats as soon as possible.”

The lecture will take place from 9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. CDT Saturday, June 23, in the Library and Archives auditorium. The Library and Archives is located at 403 Seventh Ave. N., directly west of the Tennessee State Capitol in downtown Nashville. Free parking is available around the Library and Archives building.

Although the lecture is free and open to the public, registration is required due to seating limitations in the auditorium. To reserve seats, please visit

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

Monday, June 4, 2018

Oops!: Reconciling Old Data and New Information

By Heather Adkins and Elinor Madeira

Image 29895 – “168150-Roll Call,” Souvenir Post Card Co., 1908, #WM213, Looking Back at Tennessee Photograph Collection, ca. 1890-1981.

We all make mistakes every now and then, and archivists are no exception. However, when history professionals make mistakes, the repercussions for future research are detrimental. Historians strive to provide correct information, but in a profession built around analysis of data, interpretations can vary widely. The following is an example of one such record that inspired different interpretations.

Image WM213 Image Card - “Roll Call” Slaves, 1908, #WM213, Looking Back at Tennessee Photograph Collection, ca. 1890-1981.

This image comes from the earliest trips of Looking Back at Tennessee in 1986. Much like today’s programs, archivists visited local communities to gather information on personal records and make duplicates to keep at the Library and Archives. Information gathered on these trips partly come from the owner of the record. So if the owner is misinformed, the archivist can subsequently record incorrect information. For instance, on the record sheet for this image, the archivist typed “’Roll Call’ Slaves;” however, the image itself does not have “slaves” written on it. The archivist also dated the image as 1908. President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation January 1, 1863, so it would be difficult to say that the subjects of the image were in fact enslaved.

Image Picture Card Splice – You can see the differing information based on the interpretations of the image-owner and the recording archivist.

To compound the issue, when the record was digitized and put on the online photograph database, the metadata writer added to the description of the photo to include, “People known as ‘Roll Call’ slaves.” The image was then picked up by different websites and digital collectors, like Google and Pinterest, where the written information of the image has become “fact” without much further consideration.

Image Photo database – The image is represented differently on the online photograph database than on the original.

Image Pinterest – Pinterest showing the user-posted image as a search result. Accessed May 10, 2018.

There are several ways this image could be interpreted. “Roll Call” could imply that the image is of a school, a church or even a form of community child care. The number of children could shift the interpretation easily in that direction. There are no visible agricultural tools, but it could also be families preparing to work in fields, considering the prevalence of tenant farming and sharecropping in Tennessee at that time. That interpretation is more fabrication. If you look closely at the building, a baby’s pram sits on the porch – small luxuries were most likely not available to enslaved persons. Whatever story could be spun about the image, to say that the subjects are slaves is a label not easily proven.

Image Baby Pram – “168150-Roll Call,” Souvenir Post Card Co., 1908, #WM213, Looking Back at Tennessee Photograph Collection, ca. 1890-1981.

As a rule, when processing photographs, archivists should not interpret an image. For purposes of cataloging and finding a photo, best practice is to describe the image (including any writing) and leave it to researchers how they want to use the image. For example, the “Roll Call” image is also in a collection held by the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library (part of Yale University Library). Their metadata writer describes the image simply, talking briefly about the people in the image and the building (see below). It could be added to the description the number of children and adults, that some are sitting or standing and where, the separation of gender in their placement and the second building in the background.

Image Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library – “Guide to Randolph Linsly Simpson African-American Collection JWJ MSS 54, Series I. Visual Material. Online:

So how do we reconcile when mistakes are made? First, we understand that new information becomes available all the time, and that is a good thing! Second, we compare the new and old data to see if information and analysis still align. Lastly, we admit when we are mistaken.

If you find something in our online material you think might be incorrect, please let us know. We will do our best to update our online information. Contact us here:

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

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

May is Mindfulness Month

By Heather Fach

May is Mindfulness Month…the perfect time to take a step back from our busy, chaotic lives and fully engage. But where to start? The word “mindfulness” connotes meditation or spiritual practice for some. In short, mindfulness is a full awareness of one’s surroundings within the present moment. When incorporated into daily life, benefits can include greater mental clarity and acuity, a more relaxed state of mind and improved quality of personal relationships. Some studies have also indicated that those who practice mindfulness exercises tend to be physically healthier than those who do not.

Some of the more recent books on the subject of mindfulness that are available from the Tennessee Library for Accessible Books and Media approach the topic from different perspectives: psychological (The Mindfulness Solution by Ronald D. Siegel), neuroscientific (Mindsight: The New Science of Personal Transformation by Daniel J. Siege), and Taoist (The Urban Monk: Eastern Wisdom and Modern Hacks To Stop Time and Find Success, Happiness, and Peace by Pedram Shojai). Whether you’re a newcomer to the subject or have practiced for years, each author offers practical advice to improve one’s well-being.

Of course, mindfulness is at the center of Buddhist tradition, but one need not be Buddhist to reap the benefits of meditation. An excellent introduction is The Miracle of Mindfulness: A Manual on Meditation by Buddhist monk and teacher Thich Nhat Hanh. Hanh’s other works including How To Relax, Savor: Mindful Eating, Mindful Life, and Silence: The Power of Quiet in a World Full of Noise each examine practical applications for mindfulness training.

All of these titles are available in audio format and How to Relax and Silence: The Power of Quiet in a World Full of Noise are also available in braille

In the midst of a busy day, it’s difficult to live in the present…but it doesn’t have to be!

Tennessee Library for Accessible Books and Media is a section of the Tennessee State Library and Archives and the Office of Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Meet the Staff... Casey Gymrek

Meet Casey Gymrek. She is an education specialist with the Archives Development Program department.

How long have you worked here?

I have been with the Tennessee State Library and Archives since September 2016, but it feels like yesterday was my first day!

What are some of the things you do as an education specialist?

“Sooo…what exactly is it that you do?” This is easily one of my favorite questions that I receive on a daily basis! While my day-to-day duties often change from one week to the next, my main job is to serve as a middleman between the K-12 and college student and teacher communities and the Library and Archives. Introducing these patrons to the Library and Archives can be performed in a variety of ways. For student research visits, our Education Outreach team typically travels to the students’ classrooms and gives a brief (but fun!) instruction on tips for researching our collections. Once on-site, we work with those students to mine our precious materials for their class projects. As an education specialist, I also frequently travel the state conducting professional development workshops for teachers in order to introduce them to our digital collections and related resources (​) that correspond to their curriculum standards. One of my newest roles is managing our newly-launched DocsBox (​) program, a “traveling archives” experience for Tennessee classrooms. Lastly, I attend important education conferences to share our resources and receive inspiration from other educators for future programs and activities.

What is your favorite part of your job?

Believe it or not, this is actually a really tough question to answer! I absolutely love traveling the state and meeting students and teachers from all over Tennessee while learning little pockets of local history from these treasured communities. Connecting our resources at the Library and Archives to students and teachers in the different grand divisions is a special treat for this historian! Witnessing firsthand the excitement students express when engaging with our historical documents is both amazing and encouraging. I can’t wait to see what is in store for Tennessee teachers and students in the coming years at the Library and Archives.

Do you have a favorite collection?

Another challenging question! With sources ranging from Governors’ Papers to rare and intricate maps, it’s hard to pick just one! Recently, one of my favorite collections is our World War I Gold Star Records (​). Local history from all points of view and perspectives is extremely important to me and the World War I Gold Star collection is a great way to explore the national story of America in World War I through the lens of young Tennesseans from all walks of life. From these records, researchers of any age get a touching glimpse into the past through a very personal and human story.

What makes libraries and archives relevant to modern society?

Libraries and archives are more important than ever in today’s society. As communities both in Tennessee and other states change and grow, it is becoming increasingly critical that these new residents find their own place in the histories of their homes, schools and towns. Local stories from the past resonate with people, both young and young-at-heart, so our libraries and archives have a unique opportunity to bridge together people from the past, present and future.
The State Library and Archives is a division of the Tennessee Department of State and Tre Hargett, Secretary of State

Monday, May 14, 2018

Original Constitutions, Workshop Planned for Statehood Celebration

The Tennessee State Library and Archives will put all three of the state’s original constitutions on display to the public in commemoration of Statehood Day. The constitutions are typically protected in a vault, but all three versions will be in the Library and Archives’ lobby for public viewing June 1 to 2 from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. CDT.

“Seeing these wonderful documents makes Tennessee history come alive,” said Secretary of State Tre Hargett. “Not many Tennesseans can say they’ve seen one of our constitutions up close, much less all three. Hopefully, this exhibition will demonstrate how the Library and Archives works tirelessly to protect and chronicle our great state’s history.” 

As part of this celebration, the Library and Archives will also host a free lecture on Tennessee’s first governor John Sevier and Tennessee’s road to statehood. Gordon Belt, Library and Archives Public Services director and author of the book John Sevier: Tennessee’s First Hero, will discuss how Tennessee became a state and the prominent role Sevier played in Tennessee's early history, eventually becoming the state’s first governor.

The lecture will take place from 9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. CDT Saturday, June 2, in the Library and Archives auditorium. The Library and Archives is located at 403 Seventh Ave. N., directly west of the Tennessee State Capitol in downtown Nashville. Free parking is available around the Library and Archives building.

Although the lecture is free and open to the public, registration is required due to seating limitations in the auditorium. To reserve seats, please visit

Viewing the state constitutions is free. No reservation is required.

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

Monday, May 7, 2018

Tennessee Teen Tech Week Scavenger Hunt

By Kate Greene Smith, Youth Services and Special Projects Coordinator

Earlier this year, eight Teen Advisory Boards (TABs) from public libraries across Tennessee participated in the first Tennessee Teen Tech Week Scavenger Hunt. TABs had a week to complete challenges that included making videos, building websites, using Tennessee Electronic Library databases, downloading ebooks from R.E.A.D.S. and shelving books. Each challenge earned the team points. TABs from the following libraries participated:

  • Cleveland Bradley County Public Library
  • Fred A. Vaught Public Library
  • Johnson City Public Library
  • Middleton Community Library
  • Smyrna Public Library
  • Spring Hill Public Library
  • Watertown Wilson County Public Library
  • Washington County Public Library

The winning team was from Smyrna Public Library with a grand total of 950 points. The team won a Maker Space Kit for its library, which includes the following items:

  • A LEGO WeDo Education Kit 
  • A Sphero SPRK+ robot 
  • A MakeyMakey classic set 
  • A SparkFun PicoBoard 
  • A Makerspace Beginner Tool Kit 
  • A MakeDO Toolset 
  • A Straws and Connectors Set 
  • The Big Book of Maker Space Projects 
  • The book “Maker Lab”

The Maker Space Kit was presented to the Smyrna Strikers team Thursday, April 26, 2018. Here are a few pictures of the presentation and the teens putting the items to use...

The Smyrna Strikers are the Teen Advisory Board at Smyrna Public Library. Rita Shacklett, Director of the Rutherford County Library System, and Liz McLuckie, teen services librarian were with the youth when Kate Greene Smith, Youth Services and Special Projects Coordinator for the Tennessee State Library and Archives, presented the Maker Space Kit.

The teens immediately took the kit and began using the supplies.

This program was developed as an effort to expose teens to library technology, engage them in library programming and provide them with a chance to win innovative materials for their libraries. Teen Services Librarians made the following reports after the completion of the event:

“Kids loved THE LIST, thank you. It taught them GREAT Team Work skills, communication, organization and appreciation for the strengths and weaknesses of their peers.”

“Teens learned to use Google forms like pros and I learned how to use Snapchat. YouTube taught us all how to compress videos and a good time was had by all. Thank you for this cool opportunity!”

“Thank you for the opportunity to participate in the 2018 Teen Tech Week Scavenger Hunt! We started an after-school code club this year. We have been able to learn HTML, CSS, and Bootstrap while building a website. We have also worked on Makey Makey projects as well as origami projects that mixed paper with LED lights.”

“Possibly one of the most important outcomes of these students engaging with each other and with our librarians is that they are interested in becoming an active TAB, a board that helps with summer reading and mentoring younger coders and makers.”

Liz McLuckie is building a Makey Makey piano from aluminum foil. The students on the floor are making an igloo out of connectors and straws. The young man in the back is experimenting with the LEGO Education Set, and the young woman on the right is programming the Sphero SPRK+ robot.

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

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Free online resources for Tennessee students and job seekers available through TEL!

By Andrea Zielke

Tennessee Electronic Library (TEL) is excited about a standardized test prep and career advancement resource that is now available for free to all Tennessee residents just in time for upcoming AP, ACT and SAT test dates!

Tennesseans now have access to Testing & Education Reference Center (TERC) from Gale, a Cengage company, for standardized test preparation, researching undergraduate and graduate programs, finding tuition assistance and exploring careers. It includes practice tests for entrance exams, certifications and licensing exams. Whether you a student, parent or job seeker, TERC has information that can assist with all aspects of education and career exploration!

TERC includes:

  • Test prep: Full-length, timed practice exams that simulate the actual testing experience for GED, AP, ISEE, COOP, SSAT, CLEP, FCAT, SAT, ACT, PSAT, TAKS, GRE, LSAT, MCAT, MAT, TOEFL, TOEIC, U.S. citizenship and many others exams. Diagnostic pre-tests help students determine where they stand and how much preparation they need before taking an exam. 
  • College planning: Intuitive searches and quick results deliver information on more than 4,000 accredited schools, including school location, tuition, academics, admission requirements, campus life and much more. 
  • Financial aid tools: Benefit from an undergraduate scholarship search, financial aid award analyzer, college savings calculator, tuition cost finder and more. 
  • Career development: The resume builder and virtual careers library tools assist students in building essential career skills—like how to build a resume, cover letter and interviewing tips for users at all career stages. Using the career module, tests help users map interests and aptitudes to the most suitable job categories, industries and occupations. 
  • International tools: Helps individuals prepare to pass the TOEFL (iBT), TOEFL (PBT), TOEIC and U.S. Citizenship tests with online practice tests and eBooks.

Start preparing for your next test or career using TERC today by visiting your local library website or TEL at

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

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Preservation Week 2018

By Carol Roberts

Salvaging or starting the process to care for family papers.

“Nobody wants these old papers.” How many times has that been said in a family or community? “I do–I do,” said the historian. So where does the process begin?

First, assess the risk. 

How much longer will the collection last? Will the collection really be thrown away? Does the next generation of family no longer want it? Is it in a barn, storage shed or attic under the leaky roof? Answer those questions, carefully assess the situation and then get permission in the family. Find the best place to work with the documents. Keep like things together or determine why things are stored together. Make as many notes as possible. Follow all the clues. For example, is there a whole packet of World War 1 letters tied in a bundle for a reason?

Second, salvage and preliminary cleaning.

Salvage begins by getting the records into a safe place, gently move them and look for the usual pests; spiders, silverfish and the like. A gentle brush can start the process. Better quality boxes can be used especially if the original storage containers crumble in handling. Books can be dusted with a low-speed variable “HEPA” filtered vacuum. Monitor the collection for moisture or mold. Are the records damp to the touch? If they feel wet or damp, then they can be air dried and monitored for improved humidity before you work with them further.

Third, begin the archival environment process.

The basic archival environment begins with the physical: constant temperature, low humidity and lighting that prevents fading. Find the best new or temporary storage location possible. Be sure that the storage will avoid water leaks and pests that love paper. Then begin the process of the using new folders and boxes.

  • Use acid-free archival quality folders to sort the materials.
  • Unfold and keep flat when possible.
  • Use the folders as support for fragile documents. Make all notes on the folder.
  • Do not use tape or adhesives. Use polyester sleeves to hold torn documents in place.
  • Do not use scrapbooks or scrapbook glue. Again, use archival acid-free folders.
  • Use soft brushes to dust the records.
  • Use only pencil around the collection. Ink pens are just a mistake waiting to happen.

Store like things together. For example, sets of letters and photographs stay together, and scrapbooks have unique boxes for better storage.

For especially damaged items consult a conservator.

Once the collection is in a new safe environment, then the historian can study all the new historical facts and stories that appear.

Read more here:

ALA Preservation week:

National Archives Family Treasures:

American Institute of Conservation:

Northeast Document Conservation Center’s Technical Leaflets:

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

Monday, April 16, 2018

Meet the Staff... Patsy Mitchell

Meet Patsy Mitchell. She is an archivist with Archival Technical Services.

How long have you worked here?

Since 2014.

What are some of the things you do as an archivist?

I am primarily responsible for processing and preserving our born-digital materials and creating catalog records for all of our collections. I also represent the Tennessee State Library and Archives in the Tennessee Woman Suffrage Centennial Collaborative.

What is your favorite part of your job?

I love making our collections easier to find through good metadata, catalog records and simple but clear organization. I just wish I were this organized at home!

Do you have a favorite collection?

I’m most interested in the history of the state parks and outdoor recreation in Tennessee, so I would probably choose the Department of Conservation Photograph Collection, 1937-1976. It offers more than 11,000 photographs and 21,000 negatives, not just of parks, but also folklife and historic sites. It’s also a great collection if you like pictures of cute animals, and who doesn’t? As far as digital collections go, I really love the Women’s Suffrage in Tennessee collection available in the Tennessee Virtual Archive. It includes digitized versions of materials from a lot of different collections but focuses on the theme of women’s suffrage. It’s especially relevant as we begin to approach the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment. We are also hoping to add more materials to this collection before the end of the year, so keep an eye out!

What makes libraries and archives relevant to modern society?

As someone who is responsible for our born-digital materials, I think a lot about the roles that libraries and archives will be serving in the future. While technology has aided the creation and distribution of information, it hasn’t necessarily made it easier to preserve. Bit rot and obsolescence could threaten the integrity of our records as we continue to move away from paper and toward electronic media. Think of old files you can no longer open because the software or hardware doesn’t exist anymore. Sometimes the files can become damaged. Even if you can access the files, without good metadata to describe them, searching through hundreds of thousands (and eventually millions and billions) of files will be like searching for a needle in a haystack. Through best practices and continued research, however, archivists are addressing these issues to ensure long-term access to these records for posterity.

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