Original Versions Of Tennessee Constitution Going On Display - NewsChannel5.com | Nashville News, Weather & Sports

Original Versions Of Tennessee Constitution Going On Display

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by Heather Graf

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - History will be made this week in Nashville as the original handwritten versions of the state constitution go on display for the very first time.  The documents are hundreds of years old.

The documents will be removed on Tuesday from a vault at the State Library and Archives building and carried by hand in archival boxes to the Supreme Court building. They will be escorted by a detail from the Tennessee Highway Patrol.

The public can view the original constitutions inside the Tennessee Supreme Court building on 7th Avenue.

"There are three original constitutions for the state of Tennessee," explains State Archivist Wayne Moore.  "First in 1796, then they re-did the constitution in 1834, and then the last one, the one we're operating under now, was created in 1870."

This is the first time that all three documents will be on display together.

Until now, the historic documents have been kept under lock and key at the state library and archives.

"We've always had them in cold storage, in a locked vault, and tried to take as good of care as we could of them, but were never able to display them or show them," said Moore.

That all changed when the Secretary of State's office enlisted the help of a group of art reproduction specialists at Chromatics in Nashville.

"That's exciting, you know, it's an honor to be chose to do something like that," said Reproduction Specialist Scott Ward.

Secretary of State Tre Hargett said it's something every Tennessean should be excited about.

"It really helps bring some of our founding documents to life for all Tennesseans," he said.  "And I hope people will come and enjoy these."

Ward and the staff at Chromatics used a high-tech scanner to scan in the aging, fragile pages of all three constitutions.  It's a process that took hours, but successfully preserves this piece of the past.

"The documents just slide on a moving table beneath the scanning lights, so they're never physically touched," said Moore.  "We were concerned primarily with their preservation."

The display opens up on Thursday morning at 8 a.m.

It's part of the 75th anniversary celebration of the building that house the Tennessee Supreme Court at 401 Seventh Avenue, as well as the opening of the Tennessee Judiciary Museum inside that building.

Below are the hours of operation for the display:

- Thursday, December 6, from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

- Friday, December 7, from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

- Saturday, December 8, from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. 

- Monday, December 10, from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

During that time, state troopers will be keeping watch over those documents night and day.

After that, the original versions will be replaced with the scanned re-productions made at Chromatics.  There is no admission charge to view the constitutions. 

"I think in order for us to be good citizens, we have to know where we came from and know where we're going," said Hargett.

Email: hgraf@newschannel5.com
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(The Associated Press Contributed To This Report.)

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