My name is Taryn Rice. I have worked in the Manuscripts & Folklife Archives unit of the Special Collections Library at WKU for the past year as the manuscripts technician. Previously, I served in the same unit as an intern for one semester and a student assistant for 3 years. During my time here, I have developed a deeper appreciation for the study of historic documents. One fundamental concept I have learned is the importance of primary source preservation to the study of history.
Primary sources are first-hand accounts about anything in history (from local family news to world wars) written during the time the events occurred. In 1863, a note from a Civil War soldier to his wife would just be a letter. But to us in 2013, that letter is now a primary source that we can use to understand the Civil War on a more personal level. Thanks to concerned and resourceful family members, we have letters like this in our collection that allow researchers to interpret the climate of the war. What did this man see and experience? How did Union soldiers view Confederates? What was camp life like for a soldier traveling throughout the South with his regiment? Even from reading a short, two-page letter, we can grasp a bit of perspective from an everyday man living through a destructive time in our nation’s history.
Last fall, I began teaching Kentucky History at a community college. My initial nervousness began to wear off once I realized that I had access to the absolute best resource for this subject: the Special Collections Library! This job has prepared me in a very unique way to teach this subject. In addition to incorporating research from current scholarly sources, I am able to bring the lives of Kentucky soldiers, mothers, couples, and politicians (to name a few) to a new generation of readers through their letters, certificates, and diaries.
In 2013, it’s hard to think of our emails, text messages, and twitter posts as significant historical documents. But as insignificant as those “documents” may be to us now, we should consider what and how we should leave behind our own histories and life stories. If you are interested in researching the Civil War or reading letters to and from Kentuckians over the past 200 years, make plans to visit the Special Collections Library. If you would like your family’s papers to be preserved for future generations, please contact the Special Collections Library.
In 1930, President Henry Hardin Cherry handpicked Mary Leiper Moore to collect and assemble historical relics and documents relating to the commonwealth of Kentucky. This “Kentucky Collection” would eventually be known as the Special Collections Library and the Kentucky Museum, two separate entities operating under one roof to educate the public and preserve Kentucky’s history. In an article about the Kentucky Building from the Nashville Tennessean, Moore stated that “there are not many persons so fortunate as I am, because I am getting a salary for pushing my hobby.”
Moore hosted a radio show during the 1940s-1950s based on the collections housed within the Kentucky Building. The broadcasts advertised the scope of the building’s historical collections by exposing listeners to stories like those about the Harpe brothers, the Great Diamond Hoax, the Long Hunters, Mammoth Cave, and the VanMeter family.
Moore’s collection captures her quest in finding and assessing collections and contains her correspondence with genealogists and authors from the Depression until the mid-1950s. Her collection includes correspondence with potential donors and scripts from the radio shows, as well as public relations material relating to the Kentucky Building’s dedication in 1936.
In a speech that she delivered in June 1954, Moore encouraged people to use the historical collections she had help amass and expressed her appreciation to the Kentucky Building’s donors, stating “…its contents have been made possible for your use through the generosity of Kentuckians, and you are cordially invited to take advantage of the wonderful opportunities offered here.” To see a finding aid for Moore’s collection, click here. To see other online finding aids, search TopSCHOLAR. To browse other collections housed in the Special Collections Library and the Kentucky Museum, search KenCat.
Reformed Church Minute Book
The Reformed Church/First Christian Church in Danville, Kentucky began meeting in 1843, under the leadership of Reverend Curtis Smith, who presided over the congregation from 1843-1847. During the 1840s, the church had an average enrollment of 125 members. The church’s first brick structure was completed in 1847. Unfortunately, this building was destroyed on February 22, 1860 in the infamous Washington’s Birthday fire. This tragedy almost decimated the town, demolishing 64 buildings and incurring more than $300,000 in damages.
Manuscripts Small Collection 477, found in the Special Collections Library, documents an organization in crisis mode. The collection contains the minute book of the Building Committee of the Reformed Church [Christian] in Danville, Kentucky. The minutes detail the transactions, contributions, and expenses incurred in rebuilding the church after the 1860 fire, planning to erect a new Church edifice as speedily as possible.” To see a finding aid to this collection click here. Use TopSCHOLAR to search for other church records in the Manuscripts Collection.
Construction began on the new church building in 1860, located at 4th and Walnut Street. This structure would not be complete until 1865, after the Civil War. The new building was dedicated in 1867. Dr. Samuel Ayers was the main minister from the 1860s up until 1891. The 1865 was razed after a new building was erected in 1914 at 462 West Main Street. Interestingly, that building burned in 1965.