To celebrate the 75th anniversary of the building that houses the Tennessee Supreme Court, original handwritten versions of the three state constitutions will be on display for the public for the first time.
The display is part of a week-long celebration of the building and includes the opening of the Tennessee Judiciary Museum in a portion of the courthouse’s library at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, Dec.
5. Also, as part of the celebration, there will be a Judicial Family Reunion of all employees who’ve worked in the building that afternoon. The museum will be open to the public with the original constitutions on display Dec. 6-8, and Monday, Dec. 10.
“The museum provides a great opportunity for the people of Tennessee to actually see the original founding documents of our state which established our three branches of government and our fundamental constitutional rights,” Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice Gary Wade said. “The museum also will tell the story of the Tennessee courts from the perspective of the judges, the lawyers and the litigants. I believe that it will be a treasure for the people of Tennessee for generations to come.”
The Tennessee Judiciary Museum is a project of the Tennessee Supreme Court Historical Society in cooperation with the Tennessee State Library and Archives and the Tennessee State Museum. In addition to the original Constitutions, there will be a diorama of a judge’s chambers as it would have been when the building opened in 1937, a display of artifacts and documents from the appeal of the Scopes Monkey Trial, and a display of court records from the early part of Tennessee’s judicial history from the 1820s involving a land dispute with Andrew Jackson.
The Constitutions were written in 1796, 1834 and 1870 and provide a rare glimpse of the development of citizen rights and judicial history of Tennessee. After their one-week public display, they will be returned to a vault at the State Library and digital facsimiles will reside in the Supreme Court building.
“This is an unprecedented occasion for Tennesseans to see their state Constitutions on display. They have never been available for viewing like this,” said Assistant State Archivist Dr. Wayne Moore. “This exhibit provides the opportunity to scan the documents, so that they may be viewed by a wider audience even after the display is over.”
The Supreme Court building, at Charlotte Avenue and 7th Street, just down the hill from the state Capitol, was designed by Marr and Holman and built by Rocky City Construction. It took over 18 months to build and was completed in 1937 as part of the Works Project Administration.
Its 56,000 square feet houses offices for the Supreme Court as well as the Court of Appeals and the Criminal Court of Appeals for the Middle Section of Tennessee. One courtroom serves all three courts.