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Alliance gets ready for Digitization Day

Anne Mason and Jacob Simpson at work in the archives.



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The call has gone out.

The Heritage Alliance needs your old photographs to help them tell the story of Washington County.

And they’re planning a special digitization day to help them do it.

On Saturday, May 18, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.,  the Alliance will launch Washington County  Digitization Day to help local residents capture, preserve and share their historic photos.

According to Anne Mason with the Heritage Alliance, this is an important way to help fill in current archival gaps in local history.

This old archival photo shows downtown Jonesborough and the early Herald & Tribune building on Courthouse Square.

For example, she said, “we kind of roughly know what town looked like (during particular historical periods), but how about the rest of the county during that period?”

In addition, whole groups of individuals who didn’t fit the stereotype of mainstream America are also woefully represented, she said.

“Any images that help us tell the story of (the African American community), of the Latino community, any communities that are not typical of what you see when you walk into a museum,” Mason said. “We want to tell the whole story of Washington County.”

Digitization was recently made possible by a grant the Alliance received in late 2018 from the National Historical Publications & Records Commission — a division of the National Archives, and administered by the Tennessee Historical Records Advisory Board, as well as the Tennessee State Library and Archives.

“It was actually our second grant,” Mason said with a smile. “The first one provided the shelves that helped us organize our archives.”

Digitization, she said, is helping to preserve the archives, which already includes an extensive collection of local historic photos.

As the collection grows, it will also hopefully lead to easier access by the community into these historic records.

To take part in Digitization Day, participants are asked to bring old photographs and/or negatives along with a flash drive to the Jonesborough/Washington County Historia Museum located at the Historic Jonesborough Visitors Center from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Staff will scan the image and return the original to the owner, along with the digital copy transferred to the flash drive.

That way, Mason said, the photo is not only preserved in the archive, but also for the family.

Mason and Jacob Simpson, also with the Alliance, both stress that participants may need to toss aside any preconceived notions of what constitutes historical photos.

For example, Mason said, the Alliance would be thrilled to see anything form the 1920s to the 1960s, a noticeable gap in their records. Even later photos with early town events or key individuals can be valuable.

“There are things even going on now that are worth preserving,” Simpson said.

And that is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the Alliance’s wish list.

“We have very few photographs of the Chester Inn during the time period post World War II…” Simpson said. “We also have no pictures of the interior of the Chester Inn.”

Churches, clubs and organizational gatherings are also important.

“There is one picture that we have that is the Oddfellows parade and it’s actually the African-American Oddfellows group,” Simpson said, adding that it provided another important element often ignored in local history.

Family photos can also be valuable, both for the period trappings, the background and the individuals, as well as photos that capture any of the many communities surrounding Jonesborough, from Telford to Garber to Bowmantown.

The most important thing to remember, Mason said, is that while these photos tell their own stories, any extra details about when, where and who go a long way in helping in the preservation efforts.

“They all have some sort of educational value, but it does help when we know something about the people,” Mason said.

For more information, the Heritage Alliance at (423) 753-9580, or contact the organization via email at [email protected]  Additional information can also be found online at