NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Thousands of boxes of State Supreme Court records that sat untouched for nearly 200 years, are coming back to life. The Tennessee State Library and Archives is restoring the records, then filing the documents online for public viewing.
State Librarian and Archivist, Chuck Sherrill, walked into a temperature controlled room in the Archive building, flipped the lights, and exposed row upon row of boxes.
Each one is filled with State Supreme Court records dating back nearly 200 years.
"These are walls that talk and all levels of this building are full of talking history waiting to be discovered by someone," said Sherrill.
For now, employees at the State Library and Archives are that someone as they sift through stories told in the Supreme Court records.
The cases that are coming to life cover anything from mal-practice suits where medical sponges were left in patients to car accidents that left local victims scarred for life. Photographs, X-rays, soiled clothing, bloodied knives, even bottles of poison accompany the records kept in murder and abuse cases.
New grant money is helping the State Library and Archives restore the records
Once restored, the records are uploaded online and indexed so that anyone can search them based on subject or name.
Chuck Sherrill has already found documents within the collection that describe a relatives run in with the law from the 1800's.
"The judge writes 'Zebediah Payne you are a handsome young man who grew up in a good family but you have turned evil. You met up with this traveler, you killed him with a knife you stole his money and you hid in Texas where you imagined a murderer could find refuge. You shall be hung by the neck until dead.' That was one of those spine tingling moments of realizing this ended somebody's life and having a personal connection to that made it very real to me," said Sherrill.
Sherrill said its not a matter of if, but when these walls will tell a story that relates to you.
"Anytime you can get your hands on a record that is old and relates to your family especially when it has testimony and you can almost hear them talking, it gives you a connection with the past that you can't get in any other way."
Ancestry.com and the State Supreme Court Historical Society granted money for this restoration project.
About 20% of the records are available for viewing, but it could take another five years to complete the project.