Wednesday, April 29, 2020

A walk through the streets of Nashville...

Archivist Will Thomas recently took a walk through the abandoned streets of downtown Nashville (at a safe social distance, of course). He snapped several photographs to document this time in our collective history. We’re sharing a few of his photographs here...

Tennessee State Library and Archives Building, April 9, 2020. TSLA was closed to the public due to coronavirus effective Monday, March 16, 2020.

Lower Broad, Broadway looking west from 1st Ave, April 9, 2020

Empty sidewalk on Broadway, looking west down Broadway from between 2nd Ave & 3rd Ave, April 9, 2020.

Sign in window of Robert's Western World, Broadway between 4th Ave & 5th Ave, April 9, 2020.

These photographs will become a permanent part of the State Library and Archives digital collection documenting our state’s response to COVID-19. View the entire digital collection HERE.

For information on how you might document your own experiences during this time of social distancing, we encourage you to visit our Education Outreach page, where you’ll find instruction from our staff on how to record your experiences for posterity.

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

Monday, April 27, 2020

Record Your Experience of the Coronavirus Pandemic

Tennesseans, like so many people worldwide, are reacting and adapting to the global COVID-19 health crisis. As the state repository for collecting and preserving Tennessee history, the Tennessee State Library and Archives is also adapting to this new normal and responding with a new initiative to chronicle this moment in our country’s history and its impact on all Tennesseans.

We encourage all Tennesseans to document their unique experience of life during the COVID-19 pandemic. Your expressions, whether in the form of personal diaries, journal entries, poems, photographs, drawings, audio, or video interviews, will all be invaluable contributions towards documenting this historic moment.

Over the coming weeks, we will ask for your submissions as we navigate the COVID-19 health crisis. The Library and Archives will preserve submitted material for future generations.

Key Ways Daily Life Has Changed: Parallels to the Past

Materials housed within the Tennessee State Library and Archives illustrate that the current global crisis is just one of numerous periods of adversity through which Tennesseans have persevered, including the Spanish Flu Pandemic of 1918 and World War II.

Quarantine/Stay at Home Order: Currently, Tennesseans are encouraged to stay at home and only venture out into public spaces when necessary. In times past, Tennesseans asked to sequester themselves to prevent the spread of disease, as seen in this poster dating from the Yellow Fever outbreak of 1879 in Memphis.

Quarantine broadside for Covington, Tenn.
Tennessee Department of Public Health, 1874-1975, Record Group 1
Image: Tennessee Virtual Archive (TeVA)

During World War II, the U. S. Office of Defense Transportation asked Americans to limit unnecessary travel.

On a blue background, this World War II era poster features four illustrations of reasons why Americans may choose to travel, but the implication is that those trips aren't necessary.
World War I and World War II Poster Collection.
Image: Tennessee Virtual Archive (TeVA)

Rationing of Vital Supplies: Many area businesses are limiting the purchase of essential items to one or two quantities per person, including toilet paper, cleaning supplies, and other miscellaneous goods. Similarly, during World War II, Americans were asked to contribute to the war effort through rationing as the government limited household staples that one could purchase, such as gas, dairy, and meat.

This poster provides two images to interpret the experience of rationing during World War II.
World War I and World War II Poster Collection.
Image: Tennessee Virtual Archive (TeVA)

Medical Care Response: Throughout the state, medical providers have mobilized and adapted solutions to treat the mass influx of patients infected with COVID-19. In 1918, temporary medical care centers were hastily constructed to handle the overflow of patients with Spanish Flu.

During the flu epidemic of 1918 the Old Hickory Hospital was erected behind the DuPont Powder Plant to accommodate the overflow of patients needing care.
Over Here, Over There Digital Collection.
Image: Tennessee Virtual Archive (TeVA)

As depicted in the images above, daily life can dramatically change in response to extraordinary events. Just as the lives of those who survived the Spanish Flu and World War II changed in countless ways, so too will the current Coronavirus Pandemic leave its mark on our lives.

Get Started Documenting Your Story

The historical significance of COVID-19 in our country’s history is yet to be determined. Future generations will undoubtedly look upon this moment in time and will study it to seek answers to many questions. You can start by recording your answers to the following questions:

  • How has your day-to-day life changed? 
  • How have Tennesseans navigated these changes, and what do you think of them? 
  • How have you spent your time? 
  • What have you done to prevent contracting the virus? 
  • What do you think of the decisions made by leadership? 
  • What is it like living through a global pandemic?

While students are spending the remainder of their school year studying at home, students and families can create primary sources for contribution to the Library and Archives. Our education team has developed a series of graphic organizers to assist students and families in telling their stories in a variety of formats. Visit our “At Home Learning” page and click on “Documenting COVID-19” for more information.

It is up to those of us living through this crisis to provide answers to the inquisitive onlookers of the future. Please join us in documenting this significant moment in our collective history.

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

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Kinsall Collection Now Available on TeVA

By Brooke Jackson

The Lt. Col. J.Y. Kinsall Collection is now available to view online. This collection centered around Lt. Col. J.Y. Kinsall, a World War II and Korean War veteran.

Black and white photograph of Lt. Col. J.Y. Kinsall with his two year old daughter Lucinda Clair Kinsall. Lucinda is standing on a desk while pinning the Silver Oak Leaves pin on Kinsall, who recently made Lieutenant Colonel. Photograph was originally printed in "The Strata Courier" newspaper based out of Mountain Home, Idaho.
Image: TeVA Kinsall Collection

Born in 1910 in Carter County, Oklahoma, Kinsall enlisted in the United States Air Force (USAF) at the age of 19. Until 1942 the USAF was known as the United States Army Air Corps. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, which led the United States into WWII, Kinsall transferred to Miami Beach, Florida. While in Florida, he helped the USAF establish the Officer Candidate School, a 90-day program to train officers.

During the Korean War, he worked as a Director of Base Personnel at the Osan Air Base (K-55) in Pyeongtaek, South Korea, and the Nagoya Air Base in Nagoya, Japan. He was also stationed in Casablanca, Morocco, from March – December 1945. Kinsall dedicated his life to the military and serving over thirty years before being honorably discharged in 1958. After his discharge, Kinsall retired to Nashville, Tennessee.

Black and white photograph of Lt. Col. J.Y. Kinsall (standing on left) shaking hands with an unidentified United States Air Force soldier. In the background, there are unidentified U.S. Air Force soldiers standing under a Boeing C-97 Stratofreighter. Image is an official U.S. Air Force Photograph taken at the Kelly Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas.
Image: TeVA Kinsall Collection

During his military career, Kinsall cultivated a passion for photography. Most of the photos and slides in this collection document his personal and military life during the Korean War. He took pictures of his family living in Japan, landscapes in South Korea, and photos of everyday life in Morocco.

Slide film (or reversal film) of two North American F-86D Sabre fighter interceptors in flight. Photograph is taken by Lieutenant Colonel J.Y. Kinsall from another aircraft in flight.
Image: TeVA Kinsall Collection

Slide film (or reversal film) of unidentified South Korean women carrying pots and baskets on top of their heads.
Image: TeVA Kinsall Collection

Slide film (or reversal film) of a Godzilla topiary located at a park in Tokyo, Japan. Emiko and Yasko, who were governesses for the Kinsall family, are pictured with the Kinsall children, Robert (aged 2) and Lucinda Clair (aged 3.)
Image: TeVA Kinsall Collection

The collection includes photos, slides, and insignia he was awarded throughout his service. The items in this collection were loaned to the Library and Archives by his daughter Lucinda Clair Kinsall, who is a retired employee from the Tennessee State Library and Archives.

Browse the collection at:

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

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Watkins: Education for All

By Megan Spainhour

In 1880, before his death, a Nashville businessman and philanthropist made a wish. Samuel Watkins, according to his will, had left $100,000 and property at the corner of High Street (6th Ave) and Church in Nashville to the State of Tennessee for the establishment of a school that would teach the “business of life” to people in need.

Portrait of Samuel Watkins (1794-1880), founder of Watkins Institute. THS Photograph Collection

Home of Samuel Watkins in Nashville. Louise Littleton Davis Papers Collection

That school opened its doors in 1885 as Watkins Institute. The Institute, which provided the city’s poorer youth with the opportunity to acquire an education, was Samuel Watkins’ vision brought to life. The basement and the first floor of the building was rented out to provide revenue for the school. On the second floor was a library and the third floor contained a lecture hall.

Joseph Stineford Carels- librarian for Watkins Institute for 20 years, approximately 1900. Library Photograph Collection

In 1889, the three commissioners of the school, John M. Lea, William P. Cooper, and James Whitworth, started the Watkins Institute Free Night School with three classes–Elementary, Primary, and Technical–which lasted for a term of four months. Due to the overwhelming response to this new program, more courses and programs were added.

Program for Watkins Institute promoting the Watkins Night School's tenth annual session, 1897. Manuscript Files

In the 1930s, as the Great Depression lingered, citizens flocked to Watkins Institute to get an education that would help them become employed.

By 1979, the school added Interior Design and Art degrees to its curriculum. In 1885, the Watkins Film School was added. With its focus on visual arts, Watkins was renamed the Watkins Institute of Art and Design in 1994.

Watkins Institute building on Church Street, approximately 1970’s. Louise Littleton Davis Papers Collection

With more than 130 years of continuous educational service to its credit, Watkins operates as an independent, nonprofit, four-year, nationally accredited college of visual arts. It has educated and fed the fire of creativity for many contemporary artists. Notable alumni include “Big Eyes” painter Margaret Keane, Hollywood Script Supervisor Tracy Scott, and Nashville Tennessean editorial cartoonist Tom Little.

Each fall, Watkins students sell their art, crafts, and handmade artisan goods at the annual Southern Book Festival.

Recently Watkins has come under controversy for its decision to merge with Belmont University. In this merger, Watkins will leave its current building on Rosa Parks Blvd, once again transitioning to a new chapter.

Illustration of Watkins Institute, Church St., 1887. Library Photograph Collection

Watkins Institute at 6th and Church Street, approximately 1890. Library Photograph Collection

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

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Tennessee Public Libraries Continue to Serve

See Press Release Statement at:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Despite restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many public libraries continue to serve their communities and in partnership with the Tennessee State Library and Archives, are offering several online resources for learning at home, research and entertainment.

“Local libraries provide vital services to their communities,” said Secretary of State Tre Hargett. “Thanks to the Tennessee State Library and Archives expansive online resources and the dedicated librarians across the state that have found innovative ways to still serve their communities.”

Through curbside pickup services, some libraries are still loaning out books and materials after sanitizing them following CDC guidelines and letting them sit at least 24 hours before lending them again.

In Maryville, children can attend story time with songs and a simple craft project via Facebook Live. The library in White Pine has a cart outside with free puzzles, paperback books and some cleaning supplies available to community members.

While in Pigeon Forge, people who need to file for unemployment can visit the library, don a mask and enter the library a few at a time to use the computers. Librarians, also wearing a mask and gloves, assist if needed.

Many libraries are still offering free wi-fi. Patrons can access the internet on their smartphone, laptop, or tablet from the safety of their car in the library parking lot. Libraries are also waiving overdue fines for anyone unable to return books and materials.

“Libraries are anchor institutions. In times like these, when the seas of life are rough, we need our anchors,” said State Librarian and Archivist Chuck Sherrill. “Librarians are talented public servants who use their skills to meet community needs. It’s amazing to see their dedication and creativity during this public health crisis.”

Libraries across the state continue to provide online resources around the clock as well. The Tennessee Electronic Library (TEL) gives Tennessee residents access to over 400,000 magazines, journals, newspapers, essays, e-books, podcasts, videos, homework help and more. Tennessee R.E.A.D.S. offers more than 100,000 digital e-books, audiobooks, and videos to patrons of regional libraries for free. The TumbleBook Library provides a collection of animated talking picture books, read-along books, e-books, quizzes, puzzles, lesson plans and educational games for children.

Contact your library or follow their social media to find available programs in your community. For more information on the resources provided by the Tennessee State Library and Archives visit

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

Friday, April 3, 2020

At-Home Learning

By Kelly Wilkerson

Looking for At-Home Learning activities that can involve the whole family? We are posting a daily At-Home Learning activity on Facebook highlighting a primary source from our collection. For additional social studies activities and resources, visit our At-Home Learning page at On this page, we have a new activity on Documenting Pandemics that uses an item from our collection about the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918 and helps families create primary sources about events happening now.

To explore the array of social studies and other educational resources from the Tennessee State Library and Archives, visit, or

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