Southern Places is a digital collection preserving the visual archives of thirty years of fieldwork by the Center for Historic Preservation (CHP). The collection, which is growing steadily as more and more files are scanned and added, includes 1800 objects at present. Southern Places is a partnership with the James E. Walker Library’s Digital Initiatives group of staff members, who have created metadata and digitization standards for maximum sustainability. CHP staff and students are charged with scanning materials and writing and entering historical notes and architectural descriptions. In addition to color photographs of many out-of-the-way historic sites (some no longer extant), Southern Places also includes historic photographs, research notes, and hand-drawn site plans.
Making this trove of archival materials publicly accessible is one way to share the work of the CHP with the communities we serve across the state and around the region. Access to the field photographs, first-person documentation, and scholarly research behind a wide range of National Register of Historic Places properties, authored by Dr. Carroll Van West and other CHP staff and graduate students, is free. While the majority of these historic sites are in Tennessee, some notable projects, including an ongoing Civil Rights initiative, a multi-state survey of the Trail of Tears, and a study of Reconstruction-era African American communities, have crossed borders into Alabama, Georgia, and Kentucky. Two particularly valuable multi-property collections that have been fast-tracked for inclusion in Southern Places since they are all but unavailable elsewhere are Tennessee’s rural African American churches and the Rosenwald schools across the state.