Field Trip: Washington County Archives Part II

In 2011, Ned Irwin accepted the challenge of establishing an archives for the State of Tennessee’s oldest county; Washington. Originally, as the records were gathered to Jonesborough from various county offices and storage sites, the old courthouse was modified to house the record groups. I wrote about this first phase here.

Touring the first phase of archival storage in a courthouse jail block with Brianne Wright and Ned Irwin.

The County purchased the former First National Bank building for the home of the future archives. The bank, built in 1915, is located on Main Street in Jonesborough, the county seat.

Later it became the First People’s Bank. In 2015, the county undertook a major renovation. Only the offices, break room, and vaults remained unchanged.

The completed archives was dedicated on April 1, 2017. All of the records that were once stored in the basement and jail areas of the courthouse have been transferred to the bank building. Patrons can make use of research hours five days a week, a small reference library, an online catalog, and a full-time archivist and archives administrator.

For today’s virtual tour, I will start by showing blog readers the view from the patron reading room.

The Historic Chester Inn, built in 1797.

The International Storytelling Center.

Not a bad view, right? Inside, a bright, airy reading room awaits.

To the left, patrons can store their belongings in a locker, access the catalog, and learn more about local history from the archives exhibit.

The offices, with their original banker charm, look out over all of this.

The employee and storage areas are divided between two floors. I love how shiny new everything looks while still maintaining authentic and historic touches.

The reference library doubles as a work space.

The library/work space leads to the original bank vault. That door is really something to behold.

The vault no longer holds money, however, so there is no need to drill your way in from the business next door!

Here is some of the downstairs archival storage. Bound court logs are interspersed with loose records such as wills, dowers, and marriages.

A favorite shelfie of beautifully marbled margin edges.

The cardboard boxes (right) are awaiting processing when their contents will be transferred to archival boxes (left). The cardboard boxes are currently housing documents that came out of legal shelving like these . . .

These drawers were left behind in the courthouse and the contents currently look something like this . . .

An entire county’s worth of records is systematically being processed, cataloged, and re-housed. It’s a beautiful thing.

Also, on the first floor, the old bank employee break room has been re-purposed as a work space.

The scanner is in this room, so this is where I started my first volunteer project. There are about 6 volunteers who come on a weekly basis and several more who come seasonally. The volunteer program is robust and rewarding and the full-time staff treat us like heroes.

Upstairs, there is more archival storage and, as you can see above, room to grow.

Another great shelfie of trial dockets.

More storage of record groups and series in various stages of processing.

A smaller room of storage with the upstairs vault at the back. It isn’t nearly as pretty or impressive as the main floor bank vault.

The two remaining rooms upstairs include this cozy workspace (in serious need of artwork), and the amazing fire suppression room.

The Washington County Archives had an Inergen system installed which uses chemicals instead of water. “When alarm sounds, leave immediately.” Got it!

This concludes our virtual tour. Hope you enjoyed it!

Washington County TN Archives
Research Hours: MWF 8-12 / T TH 1:00-4:30
Call: 423-753-1777

Jonesborough Online history and walking tour
Washington County Archives Website and historic photographs
Washington County Archives Tour Part I


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