For more than 100 years the Tennessee State Library and Archives has been collecting and microfilming historical newspapers. Now through the Chronicling America project, selected papers from cities and towns across the state are being converted to digital format and made available for free searching online.
Thanks to a recent partnership with the Library of Congress, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the University of Tennessee, dozens of Tennessee newspaper titles have been scanned, indexed, and posted on the Internet. The focus is on papers from the Civil War era. All three of the state’s grand divisions are represented, with available newspapers from towns as small as Athens and as large as Memphis. More than 60,000 pages of Tennessee newspapers dating from 1850 to 1876 are now online.
“This collaboration enables all of our patrons—not just those who are able to visit our physical home on Capitol Hill—to experience the richness of some of our most important holdings,” said Secretary of State Tre Hargett. “Newspapers provide insight into the events that were important to our communities at specific times in the state’s past.”
Historical research is made easier through projects like this, according to State Librarian and Archivist Chuck Sherrill.
“With the word-searching capability of this software, details that have been buried in print are now coming to light,” Sherrill said. “Articles that have been in the dark since the day that newspaper was laid aside can now be found again with keyword searching.”
Sherrill himself found new material about a Civil War renegade named Calvin Brixey, a bushwhacker who killed Sherrill’s great-great grandfather during the war.
“I have been interested in Brixey for many years, but would never have found this article from 1863 in the Memphis Daily Appeal without this new technology,” he said.
TSLA is a division of the Office of the Secretary of State and is the chief repository of history, collecting books and records of historical, documentary, and reference value. TSLA’s resources are available in person or online at tn.gov/tsla.