Friday, April 28, 2017

Preservation Week Tip: Sticky Tape is Evil

By Carol Roberts

April 23-29, 2017 marks "Preservation Week" highlighting the importance of preservation awareness. What do you think is one of the most damaging “fixes” for a historic item? It is sticky tape of any kind. Its official name is pressure-sensitive tape, which can be any type of Scotch tape, duct tape, masking tape or even clear contact sheets or shelf liner. The adhesive damages items in several ways.

First, adhesive completely discolors items, leaving dark stains that can completely hide any text underneath.

Second, the tape or plastic part of tape can be stronger than delicate paper and continue to break the paper at the folds or edges of the tape.

Third, tape brings up any surface item if you try to remove it. A photo emulsion is especially damaged by tape and usually the tape cannot be removed.

Finally, the damaging effects of tape usually are not reversible. A conservator will spend many hours and use several chemical solvents when removing pressure-sensitive tape and its sticky residue. Do not try this at home.

Well-intended mends are a bad idea for long term storage or preservation. So what are some of the alternatives?

A simple acid-free folder of any kind will hold the pieces of a torn item together and support them.

A polyester (Mylar or Melinex) sleeve can also hold a delicate item in place. Polyester sleeves have a slight static charge to them and hold torn items in place within them. Also, sleeves are sealed only around the edges and do not stick to anything with adhesives.

Wrap a broken book, Bible or set of records in good acid-free paper.

A torn page in a book can be helped or supported by acid-free tissue paper. However, watch out for too many extra pieces of tissue in a book because that extra tissue will stress the spine and binding.

The best conservation techniques for a family collection - or any historic collection - are to use good storage techniques, create a good environment and avoid anything that cannot be reversed or might be difficult to remove. It is always the basic archival rule that you want to be able to return an original item to the condition in which it was found.

If you do have a valuable historic item with tape on it, store it carefully and consult a conservator.

Remember, anything with the words "pressure-sensitive," "adhesive" or “duct” should never be used in the same sentence with anything related to "conservation," "archival," "historic" or "preservation."

As a good conservator says, “tape is only good with Christmas wrapping paper.”

To read more about archival care for family collections, see these websites:

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

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Preservation Week Tip: Caring for Old Photographs

By Carol Roberts

April 23-29, 2017 marks "Preservation Week" highlighting the importance of preservation awareness. Here's another reminder to take care of your valuable historic items. What about all those family photographs that tell the family story? How many shoeboxes full of interesting treasures do you have? Here are a few tips for keeping them safe and well organized.

Don't touch or write on the emulsion side of any print or negative. Touch only the edges. Human oils and perspiration cause damage that cannot be reversed.

Don't write on the back with ink or use rubber stamps. Inks are acidic and may contain sulfur.

Don't use scotch tape or any type of pressure-sensitive tape on or near your photographs or negatives.

Don't use paper clips or rubber bands around prints, negatives or slides. They can rust or imprint emulsion.

Work on photographs in a clean work space without food, liquids or anything that could spill and stain a photo or cause photos to stick to one another.

Keep photographs and negatives in a dry, cool storage place. Keep conditions as constant as possible. Heat and humidity will cause crackling and peeling of emulsion. Daylight and fluorescent light will fade photographs.

Do carefully identify your photographs. Write on the margins on the back of prints with a soft lead pencil or with an acid-free pen that meets ASTM standard D-4236. Be careful not to press hard enough to leave an impression on the emulsion side of the print.

Use archival storage supplies that meet the Photo Activity Test (PAT). The PAT is a new standard that evaluates all storage supplies and makes sure the photographic emulsion does not react in any adverse way with items such as folders, photo albums or framing materials.

Do separate prints and negatives in acid-free paper envelopes with the emulsion sides away from the seams. Remember that the emulsion side of a print or negative can be easily damaged.

Make all your notes and information on the archival storage sleeve or folder rather than putting damaging marks on the backs of the original photos.

There are so many clues to history in photographs. Here are some you can use to learn more about the photos you have:

  • Identify the type of photographic process used to create the photos.
  • Look for the name of the photography studios that took the photos and where in the community they were located, if possible.
  • Study the clothing and styles of people in the photos.
  • All of these steps provide clues about the dates photos were taken.

To learn more about caring for historic photographs, see the following websites:

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

Monday, April 24, 2017

Preservation Week Tip: Caring for Old Books

By Carol Roberts

April 23-29, 2017 marks "Preservation Week" highlighting the importance of preservation awareness. For Preservation Week, here's a reminder to take care of your valuable historic items. What should you do with those favorite rare books?

Keep them on book shelves, straight as little soldiers, just like at the library. That keeps the spines and book covers intact and carefully stored. Never pull a book off the shelf by the top edge. The upper edge of the spine breaks when pulling the top down and can break the spine cover off completely. Instead, push in on both sides to remove or replace a book.

Keep books in the best environment possible in the home. Keep them at a constant temperature and humidity because dramatic fluctuations in either of these conditions are stressful on the paper, bindings and covers - especially leather. Cool, dry and stable environments are best.

Avoid direct sunlight and fluorescent light because the ultraviolet radiation causes fading of the paper, ink and book covers.

When handling an old book, be gentle. Hold the book carefully, as if in a cradle. Do not stretch the spine when reading it. Keep the spine and text from stretching and hold it open at a 90-degree angle or less. Do not flatten or force a book down on a copier. There are new overhead copiers around these days that can provide copies without flattening them. Carefully turn the pages when paper is brittle or torn. This is a time when white cotton gloves - and the loss of dexterity you get when wearing them - can harm more than help.

Book collections need dusting like Grandma’s favorite china cabinet. Books can be dusted and gently cleaned by using a basic clean soft cloth. It is not necessary to use any chemicals because cleaning fluids often contain harmful substances. Handle books with washed and clean hands. Cotton gloves can be used when the pages aren't brittle or torn. Always handle a valuable book in a clean area to avoid getting more dirt and stains on the text.

If a book is already broken or damaged, a good acid-free box and acid-free tissue paper will do a great job of protecting it until it can be properly conserved by consulting a qualified conservator.

To learn more about archival preservation and care of books, see these technical leaflets and websites:

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

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Historical maps of all 95 Tennessee counties now online

By Sara Horne and Zach Keith

Finally! Maps of all of Tennessee’s 95 counties (not to mention the so-called "lost" counties that are no longer in existence) can be found in our Tennessee Virtual Archive collection. Our map collection is always growing as our staff continuously works to discover, select and digitize a wide variety of maps for the public. Over the past three years, the Library & Archives has been digitizing the largest and most significant collection of historical maps in the state available for public use.

Individual Tennessee county maps can contain a wealth of detail and can be especially useful for genealogical and local historical research. What kind of maps can you expect to find for your county?

Rural Free Delivery (RFD)

Rural free delivery maps were most likely created for use by postal carriers. Many of them are blueline or blueprint maps created from 1900 to 1940. They are very detailed down to individual houses and buildings and may contain names of homeowners and landowners.

Soil Maps and Geological Surveys

These late 19th to early 20th century maps show counties in incredible detail, including the most significant economic and demographic features. They also colorfully indicate the soil types and geological attributes of each county, which was important for agriculture and mining.

Civil Districts

These maps were drawn to establish new civil districts after the ratification of the 1835 state constitution. They show the early features of each county and sometimes include landowners' names, election precincts, roads and boundaries.

Rural Electrification

These maps give electricity-related details, residences, churches, schools, filling stations, stores, industries, tourist camps, garages, airports and geographic features. They were drawn as part of New Deal public works projects in rural Tennessee.

These historical county maps show many bygone features and are indispensable guides to the rural landscape of Tennessee before modernization. The Library & Archives preserves many other maps and map types. If you see any you would like digitized, please contact our staff.

The Library & Archives is adding new items to the digital collection monthly so check back regularly to see our new additions! We also provide monthly updates on our Facebook page. There are currently more than 400 maps online in our historical map collection:

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

Monday, April 17, 2017

Free Library & Archives Workshop on the Historical Importance of Embroidered 'Samplers' May 6

Documents made with pen and paper aren't the only important records of Tennessee history. In some cases, the stories of the state's early days are stitched together in embroidered cloth patches known as samplers. On May 6, the Tennessee State Library & Archives will host a free workshop describing what these samplers can reveal about the lives of our ancestors.

A family register made by Elizabeth Jane Hunter of Knox County in 1836.
Photo by Jennifer C. Core for the Tennessee Sampler Survey

Samplers, once made by schoolgirls learning how to embroider, can be valuable primary sources for genealogists. Family registers were usually copied directly from family Bibles, listing names, births and death dates. When compared to public records, the dates on samplers are often more accurate. For example, if a girl was born and died unmarried before the 1850 census, her sampler might be the only proof of her existence. Some samplers also included details such as the name of a girl’s school, her teachers and the town where she lived.

Janet S. Hasson, the former curator at Belle Meade Plantation, will conduct the workshop from 9:30 a.m. until 11 a.m. May 6 in the auditorium of the Library & Archives building. The Library & Archives is located at 403 Seventh Avenue North, directly west of the Tennessee State Capitol in downtown Nashville. Although the event is free and open to the public, registration is required due to seating limitations in the auditorium.

To reserve seats, please visit Free parking is available around the Library & Archives building.

"The history of our state is told in many different mediums," Secretary of State Tre Hargett said. "The tradition of making samplers dates back thousands of years, which of course includes the era in which Tennessee existed as a frontier territory before statehood. I believe this workshop will offer tips on a fun and informative way to study history that's quite different from digging through reference books and maps. I encourage people to make reservations as early as possible for this event."

Hasson is the genealogist for the Tennessee Sampler Survey, a nonprofit organization she founded in 2004 with her colleague Jennifer C. Core. The organization is dedicated to the documentation and preservation of Tennessee’s needlework. The group has documented approximately 240 samplers so far. The authenticity of those samplers has been verified by extensive genealogical research, most of it done at the Library & Archives. Hasson will share the fun and frustration she experienced in solving some of the sampler makers’ stories. When the group's project is complete, all research materials will be donated to the Library & Archives for public use. For more information on the samplers and their stories they tell, visit the Tennessee Sampler Survey website,

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

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Andrew Jackson Collection Now Available Online

He was the first Tennessean to serve as president of the United States – and his legacy remains hotly debated to this day. Andrew Jackson was a larger-than-life figure in American politics, a war hero who rode a wave of populism into the White House. Yet the soldier-turned-statesman known as “Old Hickory” is also a polarizing figure, primarily because of his sometimes prickly disposition and his treatment of Native Americans.

Major General Andrew Jackson, 1820. Sir Emil Hurja Collection, Tennessee Historical Society.
Online at:

Now the Tennessee State Library and Archives has an online collection of materials that will make it easier to learn about the nation’s seventh president. The 109-item collection includes digitally scanned copies of many of Jackson’s personal letters, original maps from the War of 1812, political cartoons, campaign broadsides, engravings, lithographs and a rare photograph of him. Also included are papers from some of Jackson’s chief associates, including John Overton, John Coffee, James Winchester, William Carroll and William B. Lewis.

“The Library and Archives has two equally important roles – preserving historical documents and making those documents accessible to the public,” Secretary of State Tre Hargett said. “The physical documents featured in this collection have been preserved and made available to those who want to inspect them at the Library and Archives for years. However, this digital collection now makes the same records available, free of charge, to people who are unwilling or unable to visit the Library and Archives building in downtown Nashville. This is part of our ongoing efforts to put as much of Tennessee’s rich history online as quickly as our resources allow.”

To view the Andrew Jackson collection online, please visit:

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

Monday, April 10, 2017

Tennessee History Scholars Advance to National Competition

Seventy-three students qualified to represent Tennessee at National History Day later this summer. Those students placed first or second in their categories at Tennessee History Day held in Nashville on Saturday. History Day is a competition in which high school and middle school students compete by submitting projects about people and events of historical significance.

Participants enter projects in one of five categories: documentaries, exhibits, performances, websites and papers. While projects must relate to the annual theme, students were encouraged to be creative when choosing their topics. This year’s theme was “Taking a Stand.” One hundred and seven students received medals for their efforts, 20 students were awarded special prizes and two educators were recognized as teachers of the year Saturday.

National History Day will be held June 11 through June 15 on the University of Maryland campus in College Park, Maryland.

“I am certain that the students who are advancing to the competition in Maryland will represent Tennessee well,” Secretary of State Tre Hargett said. “I hope all of Saturday’s participants gained a lot from the experience. Studies have shown that students who participate in History Day learn skills that can benefit them during their academic careers and even later in life after they enter the workforce. Also, History Day participants tend to be more involved in civic activities after they reach adulthood.”

“I am proud of all our students,” added Tennessee History Day Coordinator Jennifer C. Core. “I'm impressed by how they turn themselves into experts on their selected topics and how they incorporate constructive feedback into each revision of their projects. They are learning how to examine sources critically and how to present their findings to a sophisticated audience.”

The judges at Saturday’s competition – including university professors, graduate students, high school teachers, librarians, archivists and other public historians – picked the winners from 154 submitted projects. The Tennessee Historical Society coordinates Tennessee History Day with the support of the Tennessee Department of State, Humanities Tennessee, First Tennessee Foundation, the Memorial Foundation and the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee.

Since 1974, History Day has grown from a small local competition in Cleveland, Ohio with about 100 students into an event that attracts about a half million students nationwide each year. For more information about the program in Tennessee, visit the National History Day website or contact Jennifer Core at (615) 741-8934 or via e-mail at

To view a list of the medal winners from Saturday’s Tennessee History Day, visit:

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

Friday, April 7, 2017

Helping to Preserve the Great Smokies: Paul Jay Adams

By Dr. Kevin Cason

On Sept. 2, 1940, President Franklin D. Roosevelt arrived at Newfound Gap to dedicate the Great Smoky Mountains as a national park. In front of crowds of people, Roosevelt came to the podium and stated: “Here in the Great Smokies, we meet today to dedicate these mountains, streams, forests to the service of the American people.” While the celebration was a momentous occasion, it had taken many years and many people’s efforts to reach that point. One of the people who played a significant role in promoting the conservation and appreciation of the Great Smoky Mountains region was Paul Jay Adams.

View of Mt. Le Conte at the Great Smoky Mountains
Paul Jay Adams Papers, Box 8, Folder 9
Tennessee State Library and Archives

Adams was born in Paxton, Illinois in 1901 to Nittie Elizabeth Vanderhoff and Rev. Clair Stack Adams. As a young boy, his father encouraged him to explore outside and take notes in journals of what he observed. In 1914, his family moved to Burnsville, North Carolina. While living there, Adams began to develop his interest in wildlife and exploring the mountains. By 1918, his family moved to Knoxville and his attention turned to the Great Smoky Mountains after he hiked to the summit of Mount Le Conte.

Paul Jay Adams and his dog Smoky Jack, Sept. 1926
Paul Jay Adams Papers, Box 8, Folder 9
Tennessee State Library and Archives

During the 1920s, the Great Smoky Mountains Conservation Association was organized with the mission of advocating for the establishment of a national park in the Great Smoky Mountains. Adams, who was a member of the organization, was appointed as custodian of Mount Le Conte. After learning of his appointment, he purchased a large German shepherd that he named “Smoky Jack.” The dog served as his only constant companion on the mountain. During his nine-month tenure as custodian of Mount Le Conte, Adams made some improvements to the area, such as building a camp and cutting a path to the popular scenic view known as Cliff Top.

With many people supporting and promoting the conservation of the Great Smokies, the region eventually became an official national park. Today, the Great Smoky Mountains continues to attract a wide variety of visitors who want to view the natural beauty and landscape of the mountains.

Cover Drawing of Mt. Le Conte book by Paul J. Adams
Paul Jay Adams Collection, Box 8, Folder 8
Tennessee State Library and Archives

The Library & Archives is fortunate to house the Paul Jay Adams collection that provides photographs, personal journals and booklets pertaining to his experiences as custodian of Mount Le Conte. In addition, his self-published accounts entitled Mt. Le Conte and Smoky Jack: The Adventures of a Dog and His Master on Mount Le Conte are part of the library collection.

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

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Tennessee History Day Competition Draws Students From Across Tennessee

Following months of research and competitions at the local and district levels, more than 300 students from across the state will present their projects at the annual Tennessee History Day competition in downtown Nashville Saturday. The competition allows students to showcase their creativity and researching skills by developing projects with historical themes. The students with the projects judged best in the statewide competition will advance to the National History Day finals - held in College Park, Maryland June 11 through June 15 - with prestigious awards and scholarships awaiting the top finishers there. 

Middle and high school students created projects based on topics of their choosing, all of which related to this year’s theme, “Taking a Stand in History.” Students compete in five categories: papers, exhibits, documentaries, websites and performances. Tennessee History Day helps participating students learn the importance of history and critical thinking through the use of primary source documents, in-depth research and analysis.

"Each year, there are so many great projects related to the selected theme for History Day," Secretary of State Tre Hargett said. "This year's theme is particularly inspiring because it focuses on people who have made courageous stands that have helped our state, our country and our world become what they are today. I wish all of this year's participants the best of luck in what I'm sure will be an exciting competition. I am sure Saturday's winners will represent Tennessee well at the national competition in College Park."

“We look forward to hosting this special group of talented young scholars at the capital this year,” added Ann Toplovich, executive director of the Tennessee Historical Society, which has sponsored the competition since 2009 with grant support from the Secretary of State’s Office and Humanities Tennessee. “Their History Day projects bring amazing insights into the history that shapes the world we live in today.”

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. 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 competitions. In Tennessee, those district competitions take place in Knoxville (sponsored by the East Tennessee Historical Society and the University of Tennessee-Knoxville), Greeneville (sponsored by Tusculum College), Cleveland (sponsored by the Museum Center at 5ive Points), Clarksville (sponsored by Austin Peay State University), Murfreesboro (sponsored by Middle Tennessee State University) and Memphis (sponsored by the University of Memphis). The district winners qualified for Saturday's event, which will be held at various buildings in downtown Nashville.

For more information about Tennessee History Day, please visit

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

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

‘Virtual Story Time’ Offers a New Way to Experience Books

Story time is a popular tradition at public libraries throughout the country, but story time events at the Tennessee State Library and Archives have a special twist: instead of performing with groups of eager children crowded at her feet, the librarian administering the program at the Library and Archives is reading books aloud in mostly empty rooms.

The audience – children with vision impairments or other disabilities that make reading standard print books difficult – listen to the stories each month via telephone conference call. While they are listening, the children prepare crafts that relate to the stories they are hearing.

The Tennessee Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (TLBPH), a division of the Library and Archives, developed the first-of-its-kind program last fall as a way to reach disabled people who might never visit a public library. “Virtual story time” is a program that libraries in other states could eventually adopt in their own communities.

Maria Sochor, TLBPH’s director, said the goal was to give the library’s patrons with special needs access to a service readily available to people with sight at most community libraries. “The feedback we’ve gotten has been wonderful,” Sochor said. “The children are engaging with us during the calls. Children who never would have had a chance to interact with each other have that opportunity.”

That was true for Christian Buchanan, a 6-year-old Woodbury resident who participated for the first time in March. While Christian listened to the story “You Nest Here With Me” being read aloud during the session, he built a bird’s nest out of materials TLBPH sent to him and shared the experience with others on the call.

Lacey Buchanan, Christian’s mother, said TLBPH’s story time sessions help her son learn about the outside world. “Having the phone call and the interactiveness, they are made for him,” Lacey Buchanan said. “It’s not that their disabilities are highlighted, but their needs are highlighted. A need is getting met. For him to get to be conversational, to me, that’s the best part of it.”

The Tennessee program has no age limits and there’s no cost to participate. Sochor said “children and the young at heart” are welcome to join the calls each month.

While participants are learning and developing socialization skills, the program has another obvious benefit. “The thing that makes it work as far as getting children engaged is that we make it fun,” Sochor said.

Secretary of State Tre Hargett, whose office oversees TLBPH and the Library and Archives, said he hopes Tennessee’s program can be a model for other “virtual story times” across the country.

“I am constantly inspired by the creativity of the people who make up our department. They saw an opportunity and created this program to address the specific needs of our patrons. This may not impact a massive population of Tennesseans, but I know this initiative is benefiting the lives of those who call in every month,” said Secretary Hargett said.

Lacey Buchanan is also hoping the idea will catch on, for Christian and other children like him. “I think it would be great if every state had this program,” she said. “This would be a sort of communal thing.”

For information about how to sign up for the program, please visit:

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