Civil War artifacts archived at library

Apr. 18, 2014 @ 11:13 PM

Representatives from the Tennessee State Library and Archives and the Tennessee State Museum were at the King Family Library Thursday to record and digitize Civil War memorabilia owned by local residents for an exhibit called “Looking Back: The Civil War in Tennessee.”

“We’ve seen some interesting things today,” archivist Lori Lockhart said. “There was a Bible hit by a bullet, a gun, lots of documents and store records.”

The process of recording varies among items; many documents could be digitally scanned, while three-dimensional objects, such as a the Bible that was hit by a bullet, were photographed by the on-site photographer, Will Thomas.

“That little pocket New Testament, the guy had it in his shirt and it saved his life,” Thomas said. “It went through, but it slowed it down enough.” Lockhart and fellow archivist Jessica Short said the most interesting Sevier County item they archived was the Bible. “You could see where there was blood on it,” Short said. The most interesting item they have ever come across? Spy notes.

“By their very nature, they’re meant to be destroyed as soon as they’re read,” Lockhart said. “In Dover (Tenn.), someone brought some in, folded into a tiny triangle that you could barely see. You fold it in different ways to read the message.” Often Lockhart finds that what people have to say is as interesting as the artifacts. “These things have been kept in their family for years, so these stories will be attached to them,” Lockhart said. The archiving project began in 2010, with the goal of visiting every county in the state at least once, and many counties more than once, for the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. Lockhart said what archivists find depends largely on the county they visit.

“I love Sevierville, because we got a great turnout, and there’s a lot of diversity in what is brought in,” she said. “There was a couple who brought in some things from South Carolina because that’s were they were from, but they moved here.”

When people brought artifacts into the library, they first met with a metadata specialist before the scanning process began. Depending on the size of the item, it could take as long as 15 minutes to be scanned.

Afterward, the item was returned to the owner, who would later receive a CD with the images of their artifact.

“We also offer some advice for how to store and take care of the artifacts,” Lockhart said. “It’s like a little thank you for letting us archive it.” Civil War relics were not the only items the archivists saw. Lockhart said one person brought in an item from World War II.

“They just knew it was old and thought maybe it was from the Civil War,” Lockhart said. “Money also seems to be a big thing. Lots of people bring in reproductions of Confederate money.”

jold@themountainpress.com