Wednesday, April 30, 2014

A Holocaust Remembrance

"It was all too much. I was a young boy, a simple foot soldier moving from one day to the next. I just wanted to get away from that place, away from smelling death."

If you were part of the hundred plus crowd at the Spring Hill Public Library on March 25th, you may have been able to catch this year’s annual Holocaust Remembrance program, which featured local speaker Jimmy Gentry from Franklin. Gentry told his amazing story, which includes not only the combat he saw at the Battle of the Bulge, but also the liberation of the concentration camp Dachau. The entire nation pauses to remember the Holocaust during Holocaust Remembrance Week (Days of Remembrance) on April 27 - May 4, 2014.

"Get the guards and get out.” Jimmy recalls his horror, "I couldn't move, and though I knew what I had to do, I was numb at the same time.” He knew that soldiers died in war, "but non-soldiers? Just people? Religious people? I can't understand it. Not then, not now."

In case you missed his presentation at Spring Hill Public Library, the Tennessee State Library and Archives (TSLA) has recorded interviews with Gentry taken for TSLA’s "Living On" project, which highlights Tennesseans who were victims of the Holocaust or affected in some other significant way himself. The quotes above are taken from this project. TSLA also has a copy of Gentry’s book, An American Life. Gentry’s story is truly amazing.

TSLA wishes to thank the Spring Hill Public Library for recognizing Gentry, his story, and for engaging their local community in the telling of a part of history that all Tennesseans should know.

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

Monday, April 28, 2014

Preservation Week at TSLA and the Calvert Collection

This year, April 27 through May 3 marks National Preservation Week and the Tennessee State Library and Archives (TSLA) is participating by sharing our methods of preservation. The American Library Association began observing Preservation Week in 2010 as a time to inspire action to preserve collections—in libraries, archives, and museums, but especially the items held and loved by individuals, families, and communities.

In recognition of Preservation Week, we wanted to share information about an important preservation project going on at TSLA for our Calvert Collection, officially known as the Calvert Brothers Studio Glass Plate Negatives.

But first, a little shop talk... What exactly is "preservation?" Generally speaking, preservation is the act of preventing damage to an item by ensuring proper storage and environment conditions. Conservation, preservation, and restoration are all terms that fall under the Preservation umbrella within the library and archival communities. Conservation is the profession which focuses on physical treatment of individual items and restoration focuses on bringing the materials back to their original state.

Carol Roberts, conservation manager at TSLA, uses a swab to preserve glass plate negatives of TSLA's Calvert Collection.

What is the Calvert Collection?

The Calvert Collection at TSLA is a collection of thousands of glass plate negatives, which have been undergoing preservation work since 1986. The Calvert Collection originally came in liquor boxes with rubber bands around the slides. The boxes were too heavy and it was necessary to rehouse them in archive-grade boxes.

As early as 1958, Calvert Sisters Zillah and Mary Calvert donated photographs and glass plates to the State Library (mainly well-known portraits of famous Tennesseans). In the late 1960s the bulk of the glass plates were donated and identified by Mr. and Mrs. Lanier Merritt, who worked for the Calvert Studio before it was sold to studio photographer, Bob White. These donations were accepted by Librarians Frances O’Dell and Kendall Cram, and Fran Schell began some cataloging. The bulk of this project continued through the mid-1970s and consisted of traditional darkroom printing of selected glass plates. All work discontinued during the building renovations of 1980s. Renewed conservation and darkroom printing began again in late 1980s and continues to this day.

Preserving these slides requires a number of steps, including:

  • Examining the slides for signs of deterioration, such as previous scratches, bug grit, paper and adhesives on emulsion, or silvering, which unfortunately cannot be reversed but can be slowed down.
  • Placing broken slides into a double sided custom-made protective glass casing, and place the casing in size-appropriate four flap folders (traditional glass plate negative storage folders).
  • Storing them in 8 x 10 storage boxes, which are traditional photo boxes.
  • Placing Ethafoam inside the boxes to cushion the slides.

Once all these steps are taken, we have a well-preserved image. Here's just one example of the finished product from the Calvert Collection:

Mrs. Harry Clark, studio portrait, Calvert Collection, TSLA.

What Can You Do To Preserve Your Treasures?

Our Preservation Services staff members are often asked what can be done to preserve family photographs and documents at home. Here are a few suggestions developed by the Northeast Document Conservation Center (NEDCC) and endorsed by the Tennessee State Library and Archives:

  • Never do anything that can’t be undone.
  • Keep family treasures in "safe" environment: moderate temperature and relative humidity; clean air and good air circulation; no natural or fluorescent light.
  • Avoid powerful sources of heat, damp, and pollution; don’t store your valuable books, photos, and paper in attics or basements, or near washing machines or bathrooms.
  • Heat causes damage. Don’t hang valuable objects over radiators, heat-producing appliances, or the fireplace. Don’t shelve books on the mantel, the windowsill, or the radiator.
  • Keep photos and art in the dark and away from direct sun.
  • Use a museum-quality (fully "acid-free") mat and frame to display any valuable photo or artwork—even children’s drawings. Indoor pollution (such as smoking) is a growing problem in energy-conscious spaces with good insulation, and causes rapid damage to paper. The glass or plastic glazing of a frame will keep pollutants and dirt away, and handling or tacks will not damage edges.
  • If you want your wedding pictures (or photos of any event) to last for your grandchildren, have the photographer take a roll of black and white photos. Video, color slides, and most color prints have a limited life expectancy.
  • If you want to keep a clipping from the newspaper for the long term, have it photocopied onto buffered paper (e.g. Xerox XXV Century Bond or Howard Permalife). The copy will last far longer than the original.
  • Letters, clippings, and other documents you want to preserve should be stored unfolded in buffered folders. Folding and unfolding breaks envelopes and can cause damage as items are removed replaced. If you can’t find buffered folders, use a sheet of buffered paper at the front and back of a folder.
  • When storing photos in an album, use "photo" or "archival" mounting corners (available from photography suppliers, archival material catalogs, or stamp dealers), not glues or self-sealing plastic (which can stick to or react with your pictures).
  • To remove the musty smell from old books, make sure they are dry. Put them in a cool, dry space for a couple of days, or put them outside on a table in the sun on a dry, breezy day for a couple of hours. If the musty smell remains put them in an open container (e.g. polyethylene pail, box) inside a larger, closed container (e.g. clean, dry garbage pail, box) with an open box of baking soda. Do not allow the deodorizer to touch the books. Leave them for a few days in a cool place, checking once a day to make sure no mold is growing. Remove to a safe storage environment.
  • To remove staples or old paperclips from documents (especially if they’re rusty), slide a piece of stiff plastic (e.g. polyester, polypropylene) under the fastener on both sides of the document. Slide the paperclip off the plastic, or use a pair of tweezers or a thin knife to bend the edges of the staple up and pry it out. The plastic will protect the paper from abrasion and your tools. Staples pullers tear the paper.

To learn how you can use these preservation techniques to preserve your own family collections, we encourage you to attend TSLA's "Conservation Basics for Family Collections" workshop scheduled for May 3rd. Click HERE for registration details and further information.

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

Thursday, April 24, 2014

TSLA participates in "MayDay" disaster preparedness workshops

Every year on May 1 cultural institutions around the nation are encouraged to spend a portion of the day focusing on disaster preparedness.

Tennessee has certainly experienced disasters over the last several years with flooding, tornadoes, and power outages all impacting our citizens. To prepare for future disasters, the Tennessee Association of Museums and the Society of Tennessee Archivists are jointly holding three simultaneous free workshops focusing on disaster preparedness. The workshops will cover various aspects of disaster preparedness and are designed to encourage museums, archives, historic sites, and historic homes to develop disaster plans.
The Tennessee State Library and Archives is contributing to the efforts by providing staff to teach the workshops in Middle and West Tennessee.

The West Tennessee May Day workshop is being held from 9:30 a.m. to Noon (CDT) at the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis and is being conducted by Carol Roberts, conservator at TSLA.

The Middle Tennessee workshop will take place at the Gallatin City Hall also from 9:30 a.m. to Noon (CDT). Myers Brown of the Archives Development Program at TSLA will lead this workshop, assisted by Martha Akins of the Tennessee Historical Commission.
In East Tennessee, from 9:30 a.m. to Noon (EDT) Dr. Katie Stringer, director of the Blount Mansion, will conduct a workshop at the Museum Center at 5ive Points in Cleveland, Tennessee.

To register for any of the three workshops please email Myers Brown at If you cannot attend the workshops, please consider making other disaster preparations on May 1. You can also learn more about rescuing storm-damaged family papers on TSLA's Preservation Services website. Click HERE for more information.

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

Monday, April 14, 2014

"Conservation Basics for Family Collections" workshop scheduled for May 3rd

Preserving important family records will be easier than ever for people who attend the next in the Tennessee State Library and Archives’ (TSLA) series of workshops. Carol Roberts, conservation manager in TSLA’s Preservation Services Section, will host the workshop on basic cleaning, repair and storage techniques people can use to extend the life of important family papers, collections and scrapbooks.

The workshop will be held Saturday, May 3 from 9:30 a.m. until 11 a.m. at the TSLA Auditorium. TSLA’s building is located at 403 Seventh Avenue North, directly west of the State Capitol building in downtown Nashville.

The workshop, sponsored by TSLA Friends, will cap Preservation Week, which runs from April 27 through May 3.

Roberts is active in outreach programs and consults with government and private organizations throughout the state about preservation of archival and library materials and disaster preparedness. She has a bachelor’s degree in history from David Lipscomb University and a master’s degree in historic preservation from Middle Tennessee State University.

The workshop is free and open to the public. However, due to seating limitations in the auditorium, reservations are required. Patrons can register by telephone at 1-615-741-2764 or by e-mail at

A limited amount of parking is available in the front, on the side and behind TSLA’s building, so reserve your spot today while they last.

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

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Students Set to Compete in Tennessee History Day Saturday

At first blush, College Park, Maryland might not seem like an extremely popular summer destination spot for Tennessee teenagers. Although for those who participate in History Day, it's the place to be: That's where the competition's national finals are held each year during the month of June.

In order to get there, the top competitors from our state must first qualify at Tennessee History Day, which will be held this Saturday at the Legislative Plaza, William R. Snodgrass Tower, and Nashville Public Library in downtown Nashville.

During the daylong event, competitors will be judged based on the quality of projects they have submitted on a variety of history-related themes. Nearly 450 students in grades six through 12 from public, private, and home schools across the state will be participating.

To earn their spots at Tennessee History Day, students had to present projects that won medals at one of six district competitions held around Tennessee. In all, more than 7,000 Tennessee students took part in some level of History Day competition this year.

Read more from this news release at the Tennessee Secretary of State website. To view the 2014 Program and Contest Schedule, please visit the Tennessee Historical Society's History Day website.

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

Friday, April 4, 2014

Discover the Tennessee Electronic Library

The Tennessee State Library and Archives is excited to announce the debut of the newest Tennessee Electronic Library (TEL) promotional tool: an animated video. This animated video shows off several TEL resources with Eugene, a high school student doing homework, studying for the ACT, and researching his family genealogy. Check it out on YouTube or Vimeo, or click the play button below to watch the video:

A shorter, 30 second version is coming soon to a theater near you! TEL has contracted with Tennessee’s two largest movie theater advertising distributors to spread the word about TEL. Starting this Friday, April 4, and continuing through June 26, this will be one of the local commercials airing before the previews at 29 different movie theaters across the state.

Learn more about the Tennessee Electronic Library by visiting the TEL website at

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

Thursday, April 3, 2014

State Library and Archives Receives Papers Detailing Civil War Love Story

He lovingly called her "Toad." She affectionately referred to him as "Oll." And although they shared political views that were out of step with many of their East Tennessee neighbors, Oliver Caswell King and his sweetheart Catherine Rebecca Rutledge managed to keep their romance alive through the hardships imposed by the Civil War.

Thanks to a generous donation by the Sullivan County couple’s descendants, Olivia King Inman and Judge Dennis H. Inman of Morristown, love letters between King and Rutledge will soon be available for public viewing at the Tennessee State Library and Archives. The Inmans donated the papers during a brief ceremony at the State Library and Archives building Wednesday.

On hand to accept this generous donation are left to right: Assistant State Archivist Dr. Wayne Moore, State Sen. Steve Southerland, Olivia King Inman, Judge Dennis H. Inman, Archivist Susan Gordon, and Secretary of State Tre Hargett.

The letters between King and Rutledge, who eventually married, provide interesting insights into the social and military history of the time in which they lived. The letters were initially brought to one of the State Library and Archives' "Looking Back at the Civil War" events in Morristown so they could be digitally recorded. Archivist Susan Gordon worked closely with the Inmans, who decided to donate the letters to the State Library and Archives so they would be preserved and available for researchers.

Oliver King, a student at Tusculum College, stood with the Union early in the secession crisis, but joined a Confederate infantry regiment in the summer of 1861. "We'll just have to fight it out if it takes us a whole generation," Oliver wrote in one of his letters after joining the Confederate cause.

Rutledge was a student at the Masonic Female Institute in Blountville and a staunch supporter of the Confederacy. She wrote to King after his army enlistment: "If my sweet heart hadn't to have went [to war] I don't believe I would claim him any longer." She praised him for volunteering to defend their homes.

East Tennessee was a Union stronghold before and during the Civil War, so the King-Rutledge correspondence is unusual because it describes their Confederate sympathies.

The Tennessee State Library and Archives is extremely grateful to the Inman family for making this donation available to scholars and the public.

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