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.
The Tennessee State Library and Archives launched Over Here, Over There: Tennesseans in the First World War, a major effort to collect digital records of how World War I affected Tennesseans. Archivists travel 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.
“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 Putnam County Library, located at 50 East Broad Street in Cookeville. Items will be digitally recorded from 1:30 p.m. until 5:30 p.m. on Oct. 30 and from 8:30 a.m. until 11:30 a.m. on Oct. 31. The archivists will not actually take possession of the items from the owners, but will scan or photograph the items and provide tips on how to care for these rare treasures.
People living in Middle and East Tennessee and the surrounding 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.
To reserve time with an archivist on one of those dates, email WorldWarI.firstname.lastname@example.org or call (615) 741-1883.
This is the eighth of several digitization events being held around the state, and the fourth in Middle Tennessee. Find more information about the project and upcoming events at sos.tn.gov/tsla/OverHere_WWI.