KNOXVILLE — An electronic collection of historical American Indian documents is scheduled to go online in November, and the archivists who compiled it have just received a grant to double its size next year.
“Southeastern Native American Documents, 1730-1842” contains 1,000 important papers and images from collections at the University of Tennessee, the University of Georgia, the Frank H. McClung Museum and the Tennessee State Library and Archives.
Archivists at UT and UGA are in the final stages of readying the database for public use, said Dr. James Lloyd, head of UT Special Collections.
The public launch of the digital collection coincides with an announcement from the Institute for Museum and Library Services that UT and UGA will receive a second-year grant of $204,000 to add 1,000 more documents to the database.
“This project is an important component in the development of digital library content,” said Dr. Barbara Dewey, dean of UT Libraries. “It lets UT be more competitive for future opportunities to pioneer new library technologies and practices.”
The documents range from treaties to bureaucratic correspondence between the tribes and federal agencies to modern archaeological records. The collection covers the Cherokee, Seminole, Creek, Choctaw and Chickasaw tribes.
Users see a digital version of the actual document, as well as a searchable text version, Lloyd said. The database uses the GALILEO (Georgia Library Learning Online) server sponsored by the board of regents of the University System of Georgia.
“The biggest strength of this collection is that the documents speak for themselves,” Lloyd said. “There is no one between you and the original material.”
The new grant supports the inclusion of documents from two additional collections: the Museum of the Cherokee Indian and the Tennessee State Museum.
Lloyd said the documents, selected by archivists in each collection, communicate how American Indians and European settlers viewed each other in everyday dealings between the two cultures.
Material already scanned include such mundane documents as letters requesting back pay for military services in American Indian/European conflicts.
“That’s part of what we want students to understand,” Lloyd said. “Life was no different back then. People were paying attention to the bottom line, the nitty-gritty of life, trying to get along or trying to deal with not getting along.”
Lloyd said the new database will make primary research material available to teachers and students from kindergarten through grade 12.