About the Memphis & Shelby County Room
Have you ever wondered when your house was built, who was the first city mayor or what Memphis was like during World War II? You can find these answers and so much more in a special room on the fourth floor at the Benjamin L. Hooks Central Library. Established in 1971, the Memphis and Shelby County Room contains a wealth of primary sources on the history of our city and county.
What are primary sources? They are original records created at the time a historical event occurred. For example the diary of a Memphian who fought in the Civil War, a map of Memphis in 1900, an 1880 photograph of Main Street, the memoirs of a television journalist who covered the Civil Rights movement, newspaper articles describing the death of Elvis Presley in 1977 and the remembrances of a founder of the Universal Life Insurance Company are all primary sources housed in the Memphis and Shelby County Room.
The Memphis and Shelby County Room houses thousands of books, reports, pamphlets, 600 maps, 12,000 photographs and hundreds of oral histories. In addition, the Memphis and Shelby County Room contains the Memphis Information File which contains four hundred thousand vertical files of newspaper and magazine articles, pamphlets and other small items. The files are organized by subject and there is a card file index for easy searching.
Some of the most interesting primary sources in the Memphis and Shelby County Room are its manuscript collections. Manuscript collections are an assortment of items such as correspondence, photographs, maps, financial records, contracts, newspaper clippings of individuals and organizations. For example the library has the manuscript collections of Memphis political E. H. Crump, civil rights pioneer Maxine A. Smith, musician Jerry Lee Lewis, the Goldsmith’s Department Store, Rabbi James Wax, the Piggly Wiggly grocery store chain and Church of God in Christ leader E. W. Mason.
All of the primary sources in the Memphis and Shelby County Room are waiting for you to come and search through them. You will be surprised at what you learn about your own hometown.
About the Digital Projects
The Memphis Public Library & Information Center has created a digital archive to provide greater access to the wonderful treasures of the Memphis & Shelby County Room. Stay tuned to this blog for updates about the project and information about the growing digital collections.
This work is only possible because of our wonderful digital volunteers. We thank you!
About this Site
This site will provide introductions to some of the wonderful collections and treasures which reside in the Memphis Room and on Dig Memphis, as well as offer updates on events and programs in the History Department of the Memphis Public Library & Information Center.