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.

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