Founded in 1849, the Tennessee Historical Society is the oldest continually operating historical organization in Tennessee. Until the early 20th century, the THS focused on collecting documents and artifacts related to Tennessee’s natural, aboriginal, and civil history. The artifact collection became the basis for the Tennessee State Museum, and the documents, which include manuscripts dating back to the colonial era, are now housed at the Tennessee State Library and Archives. The Tennessee Historical Society has published the Tennessee Historical Quarterly, a peer-reviewed journal on Tennessee history, since 1942. The THS also edits the Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture and publishes books and resources on Tennessee History.
In 2000, the THS began awarding the annual Wills Research Fellowship, funded by the Society’s Jesse E. Wills Memorial Fund. The award supports scholars interested in traveling to Nashville to use the society’s collections at the Tennessee State Library and Archives, and encourages scholarship on Tennessee history. In 2009, the THS began sponsoring and producing Tennessee History Day, a statewide competition for students in grades six through twelve. Students who win at the state level go on to compete at National History Day in Washington, D.C.