In the movies, explorers consult well-weathered maps to aid them in their pursuit of hidden treasures. In historical research, though, the maps themselves often are the treasures. Maps provide clues not only about political boundaries and geographic features at various points in history, but also how people actually lived.
Now through Sept. 12, a free exhibit showcasing some of the maps available at the Tennessee State Library and Archives (TSLA) is open in the lobby of TSLA's building in downtown Nashville.
TSLA has thousands of maps in its holdings, many of which are featured in the Tennessee Virtual Archives (TeVA) section of its web pages. Click here to view the TeVA maps online.
TSLA has postal delivery maps so detailed that they include individual homes, churches, schools, stores, mills and cemeteries. TSLA's collections also include soil survey maps that denote minor topographical features such as streams, ridges and hollows.
Just as political boundaries have changed through the years, so, too, have some geographic features. For example, one of the maps on exhibit in TSLA's lobby shows Tennessee in 1822 - just a few years after the New Madrid earthquakes created West Tennessee's Reelfoot Lake.
TSLA also has numerous military maps, including an entire online section dedicated to those from the Civil War. Those maps can be viewed online at: http://tnmap.tn.gov/civilwar/
The lobby exhibit includes oversized replicas of maps on display boards, actual maps in display cases and an interactive touchscreen kiosk that allows patrons to explore Civil War sites mapped using Geographic Information System (GIS) technology..
"This new exhibit will give visitors to TSLA a small sampling of the vast number of maps that are available there," Secretary of State Tre Hargett said. "I encourage people to check out the exhibit while they're visiting TSLA. Those who can't make it to TSLA's building in downtown Nashville can inspect many of the maps on our website."
The exhibit is available for public viewing during TSLA's normal operating hours, which are from 8 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays.
TSLA's building is located at 403 Seventh Avenue North, directly west of the State Capitol in downtown Nashville. A limited amount of free parking is available around the building.