Special Collections/Mississippi Valley Collections (Special/MVC) Resources
Special/MVC contains some 60,000 books on all aspects of regional history, natural
history, and culture, as well as rare books on other subjects. All Special/MVC books
are cataloged and searchable by author, title, and subject in the online catalog.
Theses and Dissertations
Special/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 are cataloged as circulating books, though there may be some time-lag
between receipt of the item and cataloging. (Beginning in 2010, all theses and dissertations
are to be produced and made available in electronic format.)
Special/MVC holds some 1000 (one thousand) 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.
Oral History Collection
Special/MVC has over 3000 (three thousand) interviews on many topics of local and
regional interest, almost all produced by the Oral History Research Office of the
UM History Department. Some of the transcripts have been bound and cataloged as books,
but many of them are locatable currently through an inventory list in the department.
Photographs and Postcards
Special/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 Press-Scimitar which closed in 1984. In almost all cases, these are original
black and white glossies and not clippings. Very few predate 1930, but coverage of
the period 1930-1984 is very good. There are other photos in our topical "Icon Lots,"
and in some manuscript collections, box lists and inventories for which are available
in the department.
Memphis Press-Scimitar Morgue Files
When this newspaper closed in 1984, the Special/MVC Department received its morgue
file (a.k.a. "clipping library" or "library") along with the index files. These files
consist of clippings from the Press-Scimitar (and sometimes other papers), associated
photos, 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 (i.e. "Desegregation").
There are over 600 separately named collections of manuscript materials--letters,
diaries and journals, and personal, family, and organizational records--in Special/MVC.
The main focus is local and regional history, politics, and culture. Collections
vary in size from just one or two letters up to one hundred 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 online 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.
Marvin Bensman's Radio Archives
The Bensman's collection is housed in the Special Collections area of the McWherter
Library at the University of Memphis. Since there are 1500 hours of material it became
impossible to keep transferring to each new format in real-time, so audio cassette
is the only format available.
To obtain audio cassettes of these radio programs for your own private study, scholarship,
research or teaching begin by browsing the catalog (alphabetized by program title). There is a wealth of the cultural and political history
of the 20th Century to be found within these programs. Use Adobe Reader's "Find" to
locate any particular title, date, or performer (where noted). Due to space restrictions
all performers are not listed and some of the listings may be truncated. If you need
more details about this collection, please contact Chris Ratiliff by phone (901) 678-2210
or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Questions, suggestions, or comments about Special/MVC resources or policies should
be directed to Ed Frank, Curator of Special Collections.