The Learning Commons
The Reference Department no longer exists as such. Its operations have been merged
into the new Learning Commons. Printed reference works are generally found in the
first-floor Learning Commons in McWherter Library along with computers which give
access to electronic reference works. This area is open during the regular hours of McWherter Library. Reference assistance is available by telephone at 901.678.2208.
There are online help guides on various aspects of library research. Kay Cunningham, former Electronic Resources
Librarian maintained Wiki pages about electronic resources in University Libraries; presumably that page will be continued by a new librarian. Topics include database
training (with handouts attached), tips for using RefWorks (Web-based citation-management
software package), and news about databases.
Special Collections/Mississippi Valley Collection
The Special Collections/Mississippi Valley Collection Department (McWherter Libary, room 404; telephone 901.678.2210) is a major resource for students
doing research in African-American history and Southern Mid-South regional history.
Special Collections/MVC contains some 50,000 books on all aspects of regional history, natural history, and culture, as well as rare books on other subjects. All Special Collections/MVC books are cataloged
and searchable by author, title, and subject in the online catalog.
Special Collections/MVC is the location for the archival set of all theses and dissertations done at The University of Memphis. These items are organized by year and author’s name, and there are inventories available
for searching by department. Copies of most theses and dissertations will eventually
be cataloged as circulating books, though there is often a time lag between receipt
of the item and cataloging. Such items from recent years will be available in Special
Collections/MVC well before then.
Special Collections/MVC holds some 1,000 maps, mostly originals and mostly concentrated on the lower Mississippi Valley region.
Only a portion of these maps have been fully cataloged, but the department has an
easy-to-use card file for locating them.
Special Collections/MVC has one of the largest general oral history collections of any university in the South. More than 2,000 oral history memoirs have been collected
on many topics of local and regional intrest, almost all produced by the Oral History
Research Office of the Department of History at The University of Memphis. Some of
the transcripts have been bound and cataloged as books, but most of them are locatable
only through an inventory in the department. Interviews include: Tennessee political
history, African-American history in the Mid-South area, women leaders of Memphis,
the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), life during the Great Depression and World War
II, the history of Memphis State University/The University of Memphis, Memphis during
the Crump Era, the Sanitation Strikes of 1968 and the assassination of Dr Martin Luther
King, Jr., the history of the Jewish community in Memphis, the development of organized
labor in Memphis, early 20th-century development of aviation, the history of the arts
in Memphis, the history of the hardwood lumber industry in Memphis, the organization
and operation of the Tennessee prison system, Edward Meeman’s Ecology Project, and
the history of public education in Memphis.
Special Collections/MVC contains thousands of postcards and tens of thousands of photographs. Most photos are from the two major Memphis daily papers, the Commercial Appeal and the now-defunct Press-Scimitar. In almost all cases, these are original black-and-white glossy photographs and not
clippings. Very few predate 1930, but coverage of the period 1930-1985 is very good.
There are other photos in the Icon Lots, and in some manuscript collections. Box lists
and inventories are available in the department.
When the Memphis Press-Scimitar closed in 1984, Special Collections/MVC received its “morgue file” (“clipping library”) along with the index files. These files consist of clippings
from the Press-Scimitar (and sometimes from other papers), associated photographs, and sometimes ephemeral
materials such as programs, flyers, and brochures produced by people or organizations
covered. The Morgue File Index is available in the departmental reading room, and
consists of hundreds of thousands of cards organized alphabetically by personal or
corporate (i.e., organization) name, and sometimes by broad topic or category (e.g.,
There are over 500 separately named collections of manuscript materials — letters, diaries and journals, and personal, family, and organizational records
— in Special Collections/MVC. The main focus is local and regional history, politics,
and culture. Collections can vary in size from just one or two letters up to fifty
and more boxes covering several decades or generations. Guides and finding aids to
these collections are cataloged as books and searchable in the Library’s computer
catalog, but there are gaps and interested persons are urged to consult with the Curator
or other departmental staff before concluding that something does not exist.
The McWherter Library holds many excellent collections in microform. The microforms themselves are housed on the second floor of McWherter Library, but
they are currently a part of Collection Management (McWherter Library, room 303; telephone 901.678.2203). There are approximately 100,000
reels of microfilm and perhaps 2,000,000 pieces of microfiche, microcard, microbooks,
and other forms.
Holdings in early American history are particularly strong. Among these are included Early American Imprints (Evans,
Shaw-Shoemaker), American Periodical Series, American Cultural Series, American Fiction
Series, Early American Newspaper Series, Early State Records (of all thirteen original
states, and many others), Papers of the Continental Congress, Adams Family Papers,
Papers of the Presidents (all presidents for the years preceding the Civil War with
the exception of Thomas Jefferson), Draper Manuscripts, assorted papers of prominent
Americans during the early Republic (e.g., Aaron Burr, Albert Gallatin, Henry Clay,
John C. Calhoun, Daniel Webster, and approximately three dozen more), National Archive
records (several thousand reels covering documents from the Departments of State,
War, Navy and the Bureau of Indian Affairs), Bexar Archives, Sol Feinstone Collection,
Southern Historical Collection, Library of American Civilization Series (microbook
format), Jeffersonian Americana Collection.
Special collections relating to African-American studies include Records of Ante-Bellum Southern Plantations, Black Abolitionist Papers, Tuskegee
Institute News Clippings file, Papers of W. E. B. DuBois, Papers of Horace Mann Bond,
Papers of Booker T. Washington, Papers of A. Philip Randolph, Martin Luther King,
Jr. FBI Files, Black Culture Series, Papers of the NAACP, Papers of the Congress of
Racial Equality (CORE), 1941-1967 and addendum for the years 1944-1968, New Deal Agencies
and Black America in the 1930s, Committee on Civil Rights (President Harry Truman),
Fair Employment Practice Committee, Civil Rights During the Kennedy Administration,
Civil Rights During the Johnson Administration, A. Philip Randolph FBI Files, Malcolm
X FBI Files, Atlanta Child Murders FBI Files, Records of the National Negro Business
League, Records of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters (Parts 1-3 for 1925-1969),
Black Workers in the Era of the Great Migration, Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and
Abandoned Lands, 1865-1869, and many others. Additionally, the Library houses a Black
Newspaper Collection and subscribes to approximately fifty African-American magazines
Women’s history has several significant microfilm collections including: Herstory: Women’s History
Collection, American Women’s Diaries (Segments I and II), Association of Southern
Women for the Prevention of Lynching, Papers of the League of Women Voters, 1918-1974,
Women and Law Series.
Twentieth-century United States history is also well covered in the microforms collections. Included are the Socialist Party
of America Papers, materials from the Military Intelligence Division, Surveillance
of Radicals in the United States, 1917-9141, Earl Browder Papers, Southern Tenant
Farmers Union Papers, Henry Wallace papers and Diary, John L. Lewis Papers, Diaries
of Henry Morganthau, Jr., Fair Employment Practices Committee files, Administrative
Histories of Civilian Agencies: WW II, Manhattan Project records, Diaries of Dwight
D. Eisenhower, New York Times Oral History Project (Columbia University), Kennedy
Administration FBI files, Oral Histories of the Johnson Administration, Nixon White
House Papers, United States Armed Forces in Vietnam records, Westmoreland v. CBS trial
papers, National Security Council files on the war in Vietnam, National Security Council
files on crises in Panama and the Dominican Republic.
In medieval history, McWherter Library has a complete Patrologia Latina and Graecae. There are several major primary sources in early modern French and English history: Goldsmith-Kress’ Library of Economic Literature, Library of English Literature,
Early English Books (Series I and II), Early British Periodicals Series, British Literary
Periodicals, French Political Pamphlets (1560-1653). Periodicals collections include:
Gentleman’s Magazine, Le Moniteur universel. Ami du people ou le Publicist Parisien,
Journal des scavans, Journal encyclopedique, Annual Register, and Mercure françois. In addition, several important newspapers are available: The Times (London), London Gazette, London Chronicle, and Gazette de France. There is access to some basic collections of scarce materials in the history of Spain which includes Navarrette et al. (editors), Colección de documentos inéditos para la historia de España, and Colección de documentos inéditos de Indias.
Other works include: materials from the Public Records Office, Calendars of State
Papers, Publications of the Camden Society, Publications of the Hakluyt Society, Publications
of the Parker Society, English Reports [located in the library in the Humphreys School
of Law, on campus], a translation of the works of Martin Luther, State Papers of Queen
Anne, selected volumes of Collection des document inédits rélatifs à l’histoire de France (Petitot et al., editors).
Journals and databases
The periodicals collection, which is physically housed on the second floor of McWherter
Library,is currently a part of Collection Management (McWherter Library, room 303; telephone 901.678.2203). It is not as useful as it
once was to historians. In recent years soaring subscription costs have forced the
cancellation of numerous smaller historical journals and even some major ones. In
partial compensation, the McWherter Library is increasingly making electronic journals and databases available online. The list changes rapidly; to see what the library has, go to Catalog Classic: Journal Titles (Online, Print and Microform), which integrates print and microform journal title information with online journal
title information, and Catalog Classic: Databases. In addition to many current journals, the library also subscribes to project MUSE,
which has many journals, and JSTOR, which consists of electronic archives of past
issues of many journals.
The Government Publications Department of The University Libraries (McWherter Library, room 107; telephone 901.678.4455)
is the Federal Regional Depository Library for Tennessee. The Department receives
100% of the publications, maps and electronic data distributed by the Government Printing
Most of the resources are therefore current documents. But the Department has an extensive
collection of historical records as well. These include the Serial Set from 1789 onward (which includes the American State Papers series); Journal of the House and Journal of the Senate, from the First Congress onward; the various records of debates in Congress, including
Annals of Congress, Register of Debates, Congressional Globe, and Congressional Record; Letters of Delegates to Congress, 1774-1789; Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789; Statutes at Large from 1789 onward; Messages and Papers of the Presidents, George Washington-Warren G. Harding; Public Papers of the Presidents, from Herbert Hoover onward; U.S. Reports, from 1754 onward; and Foreign Relations of the United States.
Students may request books, journal articles, microforms, conference proceedings,
and other research materials not owned by the University of Memphis Libraries through
the Interlibrary Loan Service (McWherter Library, room 212; telephone 901.678.2262). To request an interlibrary
loan, log in to the service’s secure server using your UUID and password. (If you are not familiar with these terms, read an
explanation on our page about computing resources.)
The following are eligible for assignment of research or study carrels in McWherter
Library (read the policy for these carrels):
- Faculty engaged in research
- Students in the writing stage of their doctoral dissertation or master's thesis
- Retired faculty engaged in a specific research project
- Visiting scholars who are engaged in research or teaching, on a space-available basis
- Others with special needs or unique circumstances