Friday, October 8, 2021

Electronic Records at the Tennessee State Library & Archives

By Patsy Mitchell

Today we’re joining the Council of State Archivists to celebrate Electronic Records Day! 

Electronic Records Day Logo. Courtesy of the Council of State Archivists.

When you think of the archives, you might picture handwritten manuscripts on parchment or antique photographs in gilded frames, but what about a Word document or a digital image? How about spreadsheets and emails? Many of these formats have been in use for more than 30 years. That’s a lot of history! 

Many of us are storing our entire lives on electronic devices and cloud services. To understand your great-grandparents, you might pore over a stack of well-worn love letters from World War II. Future generations might search hundreds of thousands of messages and social media posts to learn how we coped with pandemics and lockdowns or how we felt about the second season of Ted Lasso. 

But archives do more than capture historical events and cultural phenomena. They also document and make transparent the actions of government. This mandate to preserve the official records of state government is essential to protecting the public trust and empowering that same public to hold its government accountable. Here are just a few examples of electronic records available at the Tennessee State Library & Archives: 

Department of Economic and Community Development, Commissioner’s Files, 1966-2014, RG 406 

The Department of Economic and Community Development is responsible for creating job and business opportunities in Tennessee. This collection includes the files of its various commissioners from 1966-2014 in both paper and electronic formats. The electronic records include, but are not limited to, correspondence, photographs, presentations, spreadsheets and reports.

Manufacturing site at Dynametal Technologies in Brownsville, Tenn., August 18, 2003 (Department of Economic and Community Development, Commissioner’s Files, 1966-2014, RG 406, Tennessee State Library & Archives)

Department of Economic and Community Development, Entertainment Commission Records, 1976-2014, RG 411

The Tennessee Entertainment Commission works to attract film, television, music and other entertainment producers to the state while assisting Tennessee's current entertainment industry. This collection contains both paper and electronic records. The electronic records include board meeting minutes, member biographies, filmographies, images, press files and reports.

Advertisement promoting the 14th Annual Nashville Screenwriters Conference, June 1-3, 2012. (Department of Economic and Community Development, Entertainment Commission Records, 1976-2014, RG 411, Tennessee State Library & Archives)

Tennessee Economic Council on Women Records, 1998-2016, RG 408

From its beginning in 1998 to its end in 2017, the Economic Council on Women addressed women’s economic concerns and needs in Tennessee, developing policy and recommendations, consulting with state and local officials, educating the public and encouraging women to serve on state boards and commissions. The electronic records include correspondence, meeting minutes, newsletters, photographs, presentations, research files and reports.

Banner of the Tennessee Economic Council on Women’s Spring 2004 newsletter, cropped from the original. (Tennessee Economic Council on Women Records, 1998-2016, RG 408, Tennessee State Library and Archives)

State agencies are producing more and more records in digital formats, and archival staff are hard at work processing and preserving these files to ensure access long into the future. If you are interested in learning more about these collections or accessing electronic records at the Library & Archives, please reach out to us at

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