Officials say state archives in crisis - WSMV News 4

Officials say state archives in crisis

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The building is packed with records dating back tot he 1820s. (WSMV) The building is packed with records dating back tot he 1820s. (WSMV)

Follow state librarian and archivist Chuck Sherrill into the bowels of the Tennessee State Library and Archives building and you'll find dehumidifiers working hard to fight back the mold.

"Our maintenance staff have to come and empty the bucket three times a day," Sherrill said.

The building is 65 years old and leaks. It's also filled to the brim with Tennessee's history: maps, deeds, film, laws, marriage and Supreme Court records dating back to the 1820s.

"We like to say that we are Tennessee's closet or attic and that every Tennessean's story is told here," Sherrill said.

They get more and every day, but are literally out of room.

"We are very full," Sherrill said.

The building was next in line for a rebuild in 2008. Then the recession hit.

Nine years later they're in the same building and face an even bigger risk of losing irreplaceable documents.

"You don't necessarily know it's important until you really need it,” Sherrill said. “Like the people in Gatlinburg recently who lost all of their family papers in the fires and needed to be able to prove their marriage in order to prove their benefits, and they came to us because we have a copy of their marriage record when their copy had been lost.”

Sherrill will once again go before the senate budget committee next Tuesday to ask if the state afford to spend $98 million on a new temperature-controlled building.

"We can't wait until there's a crisis and say, oh, we really should have saved all of those records. We need to do that now so that we have them in the future," Sherrill said.

The state already has the land set aside for the building. It's on the corner of Jefferson Street across from the new history museum. They also already have the architectural designs.

The new building would have a classroom, a computer lab and school buses. There would also be enough room for all of the documents to be in a temperature-controlled room.

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