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 https://rymandiaries.eventbrite.com.

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 tntel.info. 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, https://anthropology.si.edu/conservation/lamination/.

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