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What Is Special Collections, Anyway?

By Cindy Schuchardt, Special Collections

If you’ve wandered the library looking for that next great read, you may have braved the stairs and checked out our non-fiction section, teen room, rotunda area, and computer learning lab.  As you continued to explore the second floor, perhaps you saw the “Special Collections” signage, beckoning you to a mysterious room tucked back in the corner behind the printers. Special Collections? What is that… a place to donate to your favorite charitable organization?  No.

The collections that we feature are books, periodicals and other specialized resources that relate to genealogy and local history. If you’ve wanted to research your ancestry or learn more about the history of Williamson County or Tennessee, then come in for a visit! Here’s a look at what Special Collections has to offer:

  • Books and periodicals that take you on a journey from European Genealogy and History, to S. Genealogy &  History, to Tennessee History &  Periodicals.  From there, materials explore various Tennessee counties, nearby states, and family biographies.
  • The Local Authors Collection, consisting of books published by Williamson County residents, past and present.
  • A View Scan microfilm reader, which allows you to browse through local microfilm records: newspapers that date back to the early 1800s, court records, deeds, and marriage records.
  • The Epson Perfection Pro scanner, with plastic frame adapters that make it easy to capture crisp digital (and printable) images from 35mm slides, film strips, and variously sized photographs and negatives.
  • A copy stand to help you take well-focused lighted images of publications and objects of all shapes and sizes.
  • Our giant map case, located in the Williamson Room. This five-drawered beauty allows us to store most large maps flat, making them easier for you to find and read.
  • An array of online materials, including free in-library use of Ancestry without a subscription and free in-library Affiliate Access to FamilySearch from your free personal account.
  • The Thelma Battle Collection, which includes access to photographs, funeral programs and family files of African Americans in Williamson County from the 1800s through today,
  • The Richard Carlton Fulcher database, which features excerpts of local court records that document persons of African descent in Williamson County from its founding in 1799 until the early 1900s.
  • The Genealogy and Local History database, including newspaper birth announcements and indices to family files, Veterans information, local news and magazine articles, and the Edith Rucker Whitley Collection. The latter consists of more than 2,300 notebooks of genealogical research compiled by Mrs. Whitley during her lifetime, organized by surname
  • A database of Williamson County obituaries compiled by library staff and volunteers.

Really, there is so much more than I can tell you about here.  Are you a Civil War buff or perhaps an aficionado of historic homes?  Do you want to dig deeper into your family tree but need some help getting started?  Do you need to find an old court record or want to discover where a relative is buried?  Perhaps we can help!  It is important to note, however, that we are not professional genealogists.  We don’t guarantee answers, but we do strive to deliver courteous, professional assistance to help you with your ancestry and local history research needs.

Surely there must be a catch? We only have some minor restrictions. To protect our materials, no food or beverages are allowed in Special Collections, and items here are not available for checkout.  You may only access our materials during scheduled department hours: from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays, with extended hours until 8:00 p.m. on Thursdays.  The department is closed on Sundays and on scheduled library holidays.

Now that you know what Special Collections is all about, why not plan a visit?  We look forward to meeting you!

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