TN State Archives seeking artifacts from veterans to preserve history

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WJHL) – As Tennesseans remember and thank those who served on Veteran’s Day, the Tennessee State Library and Archives is hoping to preserve the artifacts of war for future generations.

Myers Brown is the archives’ director of archival collections services. He said donating artifacts to the archives helps keep the service of the Tennessee men and women in the armed forces alive.

“If it all just gets tossed away, then it’s another piece of the puzzle that’s lost,” Brown said. “When you take their personal letters and their personal photographs, it puts a face to otherwise what are just statistics.”

As the years roll by, veterans who served in World War II and Vietnam are getting older and their accounts of war fall by the wayside. Brown said donating original documents, items and photographs from those veterans helps protect their experiences.

“Our biggest fear is that when that generation passes, these materials end up in a dumpster or they end up not being appreciated,” Brown said. “Stuck in an attic somewhere when they deteriorate over time.”

At the Tennessee State Archives, artifacts are handled with care. They are stored in climate-controlled rooms to preserve delicate items. Some artifacts are even restored with the help of an extensive team of restoration experts.

Brown said preservation is the archives’ most important task because it means that Tennesseans of today and future generations can learn from and appreciate the artifacts.

“You don’t have to be a professional historian or genealogist,” Brown said. “You just have to have an interest and we welcome you to come here and use these collections.”

You do not have to go to Nashville to appreciate the archives’ collection, however. A selection of documents and photos are available online on the Tennessee Virtual Archive.

Brown said a highlight of the virtual archive is the collection of photos and documents collected by Christopher D. Ammons showing a first-hand account of the Vietnam War. Ammons, an avid photographer, shot over 700 photographs during the war.

Brown said the state archives highlight veterans’ stories from around the state, including several in East Tennessee.

He showed News Channel 11 photographs of a journal kept by members of the Cavalry Regimental Combat Team, which served in Iraq in 2004 under the command of Col. Dennis J. Adams, a native of Gray. Brown said the journal documented the unit’s combat history.

Online, you can even see the registry of troops who served in World War I from Eastern Tennessee counties.

Brown said anyone can donate items to the collection, but they have to be original documents, items, or photographs. An archivist will hold a consultation to see if the archives is interested in preserving the artifact.

To donate historical materials to the Tennessee State Library and Archives, you can contact Brown at 615-253-3470 or myers.brown@tn.gov.

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