Digital history: New online archive displays vast collections of library’s Memphis Room

Hidden Memphis series for The Commercial Appeal

March 3, 2011

If you are interested in a sepia-toned photo of the 1932 graduating class of Central High School or an 1836 letter from William Andusentte of New Orleans to Britton Duke of Germantown regarding cotton prices, you can put on your shoes and button up your coat before heading to the fourth floor of the Benjamin L. Hooks Central Library to see them.

Or, thanks to Sarah Frierson, digital projects manager for the library, you can put your feet up on your desk, give the mouse a few clicks and see them without ever changing out of your pajamas.

The Memphis & Shelby County Room, established in 1971, is currently home to 160,000 processed manuscript collections, more than 10,000 photos, tens of thousands of newspaper clippings and a special book collection of Memphis-related materials.

“The Memphis Room is one of the most extensive collections of local history material in the United States,” said Wayne Dowdy, senior manager of the history department. “There are very few public libraries that have the kind of in-depth research materials that we’ve got. It’s a great asset to the community because it tells Memphis’ story and Memphis’ whole story.” … (read more)