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 more than 4 million soldiers and countless civilians who provided support for the war effort on the home front.
Now the Tennessee State Library & Archives is launching a major effort to collect digital records showing 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, often by grandchildren or other members of the soldiers' families.
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. The first event will be held at the Library & Archives building, located at 403 Seventh Avenue North in downtown Nashville. Items will be digitally recorded from 11:30 a.m. until 4 p.m. on April 15 and from 9 a.m. until 11:30 a.m. on April 16.
Limited public parking is available around the building.
People living in the Nashville area 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.
Similar events will be scheduled for other parts of the state. The project, called “Over Here, Over There: Tennesseans in the First World War,” is similar to one the Library & Archives has been conducting to digitally record Civil War memorabilia.
“We were overwhelmed by the response to our request for Civil War items. This project will 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 schedule of upcoming digitization events and other information about the project will be available at sos.tn.gov/tsla/OverHere_WWI