Effort to Digitize World War I Artifacts Heads to Blount County

Wednesday, February 8, 2017
WWI Veteran Lt. Harry Clemons of the 115th Field Artillery Regiment (Courtesy: Tennessee State Library & Archives)

Over a five-year period, World War I ravaged Europe, the Middle East and parts of north Africa, overturning governments and costing millions of lives. The United States joined the battle in 1917, eventually mobilizing 130,000 soldiers from Tennessee. Countless other Tennesseans helped relief organizations like the Red Cross, organized scrap metal drives, manufactured war materials and provided other support for the war effort on the home front.

The Tennessee State Library and Archives has launched a major effort to collect digital records of how World War I affected Tennesseans. Archivists will be traveling throughout the state to digitally scan and photograph documents, maps, photographs, uniforms and other artifacts related to World War I that are owned by private citizens.

The project, called “Over Here, Over There: Tennesseans in the First World War,” is similar to one the Library and Archives has conducted to digitally record Civil War memorabilia.

“We were overwhelmed by the response to our request for Civil War items, so we hope this project will help us create a rich record of World War I history as well,” Secretary of State Tre Hargett said. “Creating digital records of historical artifacts makes them easily available to anyone with internet access. It’s important that we do this now, before more of these century-old items are lost or damaged beyond repair.”

The next event will be held at the Blount County Public Library, co-hosted by the library and the Blount County Archives. Items will be digitally recorded from 3 p.m. until 7:30 p.m. (EST) Feb. 22 and from 9 a.m. until 11:30 a.m. (EST) Feb. 23. The library is located at 508 N. Cusick St. in Maryville. During the event, the archivists will not actually take possession of the items from the owners, but will provide tips on how to care for these rare treasures.

People living in East Tennessee are encouraged to bring in letters, photographs, diaries, military records, maps, sketches, weapons, uniforms and other items related to the war. All items must be original – no photocopies or reproductions – and owned by the person bringing them to the event.

To reserve time with an archivist on one of those dates, email WorldWarI.tsla@tn.gov or call (615) 741-1883.

This is the third of several digitization events being held around the state, but the first in East Tennessee. The schedule of upcoming digitization events and other information about the project will be available at http://sos.tn.gov/tsla/OverHere_WWI.