I love old photos, whether they are portraits of my ancestors or historical photos for the period when they lived. And it is important to a complete research that one attempts to understand the environment that surrounds our ancestors' lives if one wants to truly appreciate what they went through.
So where can they be found? Obviously the best resource is our own photo albums and those that our relatives possess. But what about other resources? Many archives, historical societies, libraries and genealogical societies have collections of old photos. And in the past few years there has been a massive movement towards making these historical photo collections available online. Some have search capabilities where you can actually put in a surname or a location, name of a building or historical event and find what is available.
For the state of Tennessee, what collections are available for you to browse and/or search online? Here is a list of sites to start with. Please feel free to add in the comments other online resources that you might be aware of in the state.
Please be aware that there may be very strict rules regarding downloading or other use of the images that you may find. Copyright and other legal protections may be in force. Make sure that you read the limitations of use for any image that you find in these collections and wish to download and/or copy. It is your responsibility to adhere to the rules for all of these collections.
Please note that links to these sites may change in the future. The author (me) will not be constantly checking and updating these links, so if you find a broken link, please use your favorite search engine to locate the new link.
(Updated November, 2018; recently added links are in BOLD)
- Bedford County School Class Photos
- Chattanooga Historical Photos
- Civil War Soldier Photographs
- Digital Library of Appalachia
- Digital Library of Tennessee - Portraits
- Early 20th Century Schoolhouses
- Fayette County Historical Photos
- Great Smoky Mountains Photograph Collection - Thompson Brothers
- Harpeth Hall School - Nashville
- Harriman Old Pics
- Kingsport Photo Archives
- Knox County - McClung Collection Selected Photographs
- Knox County - Thompson Photograph Collection
- Knox County Digital Collection
- Knox County Two Centuries Photograph Collection
- Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Online Catalog
- Memphis - Pink Palace Photograph Collection
- Memphis - Schoolyard Collection
- Memphis Photo Books Online
- Memphis Public Library Digital Archive
- Montgomery Bell Academy - Nashville
- MTSU Digital Collections
- Museum Center at Five Points - Cleveland
- Nashville - Calvert Brothers Studio Glass Plate Negatives
- Nashville Historic Photo Galleries
- National Archives - Digital Photograph Collections
- Oak Ridge Public Library Digital Collections
- Picnooga - Chattanooga Photos
- Smithsonian Images
- Southeast Tennessee Digital Archive
- Tennessee Civilian Conservation Corps Photos
- Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture
- Tennessee Library Photograph Collection
- Tennessee State Library and Archives - Photograph and Image Search
- Tennessee Tech Archives
- Tennessee Virtual Archive
- Tennesseeans and the First World War
- University of Tennessee Photo Archives
- Volunteer Voices
- Williamson County Historical Society Historic Photos
For historic photos from other states as well as articles about photo research, please visit the Photos page.
Good luck and Happy Hunting!