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State archivists want to make digital copies of your Civil War artifacts

Madison Mathews • Feb 20, 2012 at 9:02 AM

On June 8, 1861, Tennessee became the last state to secede from the Union, officially making it a part of the Confederate States of America.

The Civil War raged until it came to an end in 1865 and during that time there were more battles fought in Tennessee than in any other state except Virginia.

In order to better preserve the lasting legacy of the Civil War, the Tennessee State Library and Archives has launched “Looking Back: The Civil War in Tennessee,” an initiative aimed to provide Tennesseans the opportunity to have their Civil War manuscripts, artifacts and photographs added to a massive digital exhibit commemorating the 150th anniversary of the war in Tennessee.

Archivists and conservators with the state will be in the area this week at the Johnson City and Washington County-Jonesborough public libraries looking to add pieces of East Tennessee’s Civil War history to the digital database.

“We wanted to tell the story of everyday Tennesseans and how the war reached from one end of the state to another. We just wanted to get people involved in the commemoration as well, not just make it seem like another museum highlighting things,” state archivist Jami Awalt said.

The project has been moving across the state since it started a little more than a year ago.

Awalt said archivists have traveled to 28 different counties and communities so far. The hope is to visit all 95 counties in the state by the end of the sesquicentennial in 2015.

The artifacts collected run the gamut from antique photographs and handwritten documents to weapons and clothing. In one case, Awalt said a person brought in a boot that belonged to a soldier who fought in the Battle of Franklin.

Archivists haven’t been disappointed with what they’ve found so far, and Awalt said the collection would rival other Civil War-era collections at museums.

“We’ve seen letters, diaries and anything else people have had in their private collections that relate to the period,” she said. “Every visit that we’ve been to we’ve had something different appear.”

The materials brought in will either be scanned or photographed and uploaded to hard drives that will be sent back to Nashville, where archivists will then add them to the ever-growing digital exhibit.

In return, participants will receive free copies of the digital images created by TSLA staff.

Collections at the Johnson City Public Library, 100 W. Millard St., will be held Thursday from 3-7 p.m.

Collections at the Washington County-Jonesborough Public Library, 200 Sabin Drive, will be held Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

Appointments are requested but not required.

For more information on the project, including eligibility guidelines, visit www.tn.gov/tsla/cwtn or call 615-253-3470.

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