Wearing a heavy apron and armed with scissors, a brush, a sponge, pliers and a magnifying glass, Todd Wallwork huddles over a table in the basement of the Tennessee State Library and Archives and tends to a seemingly endless flow of Tennessee court records dating back more than two centuries.
The Tennessee State Library and Archives building,
where work to preserve 10,000 boxes of Supreme Court
cases from the state’s birth to the 1950s is well underway.
Delicate work with fragile, largely handwritten documents isn’t what Wallwork had in mind when he accepted a position as a digital materials librarian, but such is the importance of the library and archives’ efforts to preserve 10,000 boxes of Supreme Court cases from the state’s birth to the 1950s. Wallwork is one of about 20 employees who devote four hours a week to the project.
The boxes take up an entire half of the eighth floor of the library and archives building on Seventh Avenue North in downtown Nashville and constitute what Assistant State Archivist Wayne Moore called “the largest body of official state records we have.”
Moore said he doesn’t know of any other state that has “grappled with the entire body of its Supreme Court” cases as Tennessee is now doing.
The case files were largely neglected in the attic of the Capitol building across the street for years, where they accumulated coal dust during the latter half of the 19th century because most Nashville buildings were heated by coal. The records are in dire need of inventorying and preservation.
The preservation project was spearheaded by the Tennessee Supreme Court Historical Society in 2006 and has been kept afloat with about $100,000 in grants over the years from various sources, including the federal government and Ancestry.com, a genealogy website. Graduate assistants from Middle Tennessee State University’s archival studies program have been hired when money was available.
While only 20 percent complete, the project has already turned up some gems interspersed among mundane estate settlements, routine deaths and thousands of cases involving livestock killed by trains...
Funding to digitize these records and make them publicly available online is made possible in part by TSLAFriends, the Friends organization of the Tennessee State Library and Archives. As Treasurer of TSLAFriends, I encourage you to take an active part in this preservation effort, and become a member of TSLAFriends today. Click here to learn more.
Click here to the entire article from The Tennessean, "Tennessee Archives preservation project protects 'tapestry of life.'"