January 20, 2022

Tennessee State Library and Archives Painstakingly Saves Old State Supreme Court Records

From The Tennessean

Wearing a heavy apron and armed with scissors, a brush, a sponge, pliers and a magnifying glass, Todd Wallwork huddles over a table in the basement of the Tennessee State Library and Archives and tends to a seemingly endless flow of Tennessee court records dating back more than two centuries.

Delicate work with fragile, largely handwritten documents isn’t what Wallwork had in mind when he accepted a position as a digital materials librarian, but such is the importance of the library and archives’ efforts to preserve 10,000 boxes of Supreme Court cases from the state’s birth to the 1950s. Wallwork is one of about 20 employees who devote four hours a week to the project.


The preservation project was spearheaded by the Tennessee Supreme Court Historical Society in 2006 and has been kept afloat with about $100,000 in grants over the years from various sources, including the federal government and Ancestry.com, a genealogy website. Graduate assistants from Middle Tennessee State University’s archival studies program have been hired when money was available.

While only 20 percent complete, the project has already turned up some gems interspersed among mundane estate settlements, routine deaths and thousands of cases involving livestock killed by trains.

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About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.