Stand Up for the Archives!

Originally posted on March 29, 2011

One of Tennessee’s underappreciated treasures is the Tennessee State Library and Archives in Nashville. I’ve enjoyed spending many Saturdays looking at microfilm or pouring through books for various projects over the years. When I was a college student living in Jackson, it was a big deal for me to make a trip to the Archives. One of the reasons I love living in Middle Tennessee is being only an hour’s drive from it. (My wife kids me about spending so much time there on Saturdays!) Over the past 20 years, this repository has held the secrets of my family history and subjects of books I’ve written. I couldn’t have written them without it.

I love having access to so much of our state’s history, but if proposed 2011-2012 state budget cuts are as deep as they appear to be, public access would be greatly limited. This past weekend, Mark Cheatham raised the alarm that TSLA’s public access could be reduced from 60 hours to 37.5, eliminating seven full-time positions. Gordon Belt at The Posterity Project confirmed the building would be closed on Mondays and hours would be reduced Tuesday-Saturday 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. effective July 1, 2011. (The Archives is normally open until 6 p.m.)

Times are tough and money is short in state government, and I applaud Gov. Haslam’s efforts to trim excess from the budget. But as a longtime patron of TSLA, I cannot condone limiting public access to state records in order to save money. I would argue that more would be lost if historians, genealogical researchers, and graduate students were denied the time needed to investigate their particular areas of historical research.

I would urge everyone impacted by this measure to contact their legislators, Gov. Haslam, and Secretary of State Tre Hargett, and politely express your disapproval. Mark Cheatham has provided ways to make contact and make your voices heard.

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