Resources

The Missouri Valley Special Collections (MVSC) consists of the non-circulating local history and genealogy resources of the Kansas City Public Library as well as the Library’s archives. MVSC also acts as stewards over the Ramos collection which is comprised of books, pamphlets, and clippings on African American history and culture. Two of the most frequently requested items are city directories, beginning 1859, and area school yearbooks.

We welcome donations of personal papers, photographs, yearbooks, and ephemera relating to the region’s history. Please contact the department to arrange an appointment. Call 816.701.3427 or email lhistory@kclibrary.org with your request.

The department’s extensive and rare resources of primary and secondary documents include the following.

Archival/Special collections

Collections of papers, photographs, scrapbooks, diaries, and ephemera from local individuals and organizations comprise the archival/special collections. Finding aids for processed collections are online in PDF format. The Library’s archives are maintained here as well as some material from the Kansas City School District. More ...

Artwork

Designated as MVO (Missouri Valley Oversize), this collection of art work contains various types of large size items such as paintings; sculpture; drawings and sketches; photographs, including composite pieces; posters; and other miscellaneous items. Descriptions of these works can be found by searching the Local History Index. Many of these materials are fragile and require an appointment for viewing. Call 816.701.3427 or email lhistory@kclibrary.org with your request.

Audiovisual and oral histories

Videos, DVDs, CDs, as well as recorded oral histories can be viewed or heard in the Missouri Valley Room. Listen to jazz greats like Charlie Parker and Pat Matheny or watch the locally made film about Kansas City’s Nelly Don and her 1930s innovative multi-million-dollar clothing company. Search the online catalog for titles. For the overviews of the oral histories, search the Local History Index.

Digital gallery

Over 11,000 images of archival material such as letters, photographs, postcards, advertising cards, and maps from the Missouri Valley Special Collections have been added to the Digital Gallery. You’ll find not only historical photos of Kansas City like early downtown street scenes and businesses, schools and churches, but also photographs of celebrities like Jean Harlow, Joan Crawford, and Walt Disney. Special features of the Gallery include about 300 locally written biographies of well-known deceased Kansas Citians, profiles of over 25 significant Kansas City buildings, and the Local History index.

Local history index

This major research tool began as entries on 3x5 index cards in an effort to facilitate research about the Kansas City area. Since 1999 it has progressed through three online migrations. By using this valuable research tool, you’ll not only get facts and information but abstracts of material found in book passages, magazine and newspaper articles, reports, vertical files, manuscripts, etc. that ordinarily would take hours of research to find without this index. The Missouri Valley Special Collections librarians continue to add approximately 100 entries each month.

Maps and atlases

The extensive map collection covers the Kansas City region, Missouri, Kansas, the Midwest, the trans-Mississippi west, railroads, and early maps that identify Native American lands. More ...

Monographs

Over 60,000 titles can be found by searching the Library’s online catalog. Included are books, pamphlets, manuscripts, dissertations and theses on the area’s civic, social, educational, and business history as well as local Indian and French history, and the region’s place in the country’s westward expansion, Civil War, transportation, etc. Many of the rare books derive from a purchase of over 20,000 items in 1953 from the T. J. Fitzpatrick collection. Of note were Lewis and Clark primary sources, Mormon materials, and county histories, especially from Iowa, Nebraska, and Missouri. New titles that conform to the collection development policy are added yearly.

Kansas City city directories, one of the most frequently requested resources, begin in 1859 and go to the present. Check the online catalog or online list for those from other cities. Telephone directories from 1899 to the present are on microfilm.

Newspaper clippings

One of the unique resources in the Missouri Valley Room is the extensive collection of newspaper articles selectively chosen from Kansas City’s major metropolitan dailies of the twentieth century. These cover topics of local and regional interest. Arranged by subject, articles can be searched in the 43-volume index in the Missouri Valley Room. More ...

Periodicals and newspapers

The Missouri Valley Room subscribes to over 200 titles including genealogical and locally published magazines and newsletters—like Family Tree and KC Magazine—and journals about the history of the region and states of Missouri and Kansas. Many titles from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, like the American Hereford Journal, Americana, New England Historical and Genealogical Record, and Santa Fe Magazine, are also maintained in the department. Search the online catalog for our holdings. Many titles may be browsed in the open area of the Missouri Valley Room. Early Kansas City area newspapers are on microfilm.

Photographs and postcards

The general photograph collection began in the 1960s with the purchase of the Brookings Montgomery collection and now has over 10,000 photographs. Other photographers’ collections, like Frank Lauder’s autochromes or the Zeldin Journal Post photos, are featured in the Digital Gallery along with the general collection. Mrs. Sam Ray’s gift of thousands of postcards forms the core of the postcard collection with more than 16,000 items. Almost 700 of these, along with an accompanying historical article written by Mrs. Ray, have been added to the Digital Gallery.

Ramos collection

Books, pamphlets, newspaper articles, and vertical files relating to the African American experience comprise this special resource. Begun around 1920 by librarians at Kansas City Public Library’s Lincoln High School Branch, the John F. Ramos Collection contains information on both local and national topics. Titles can be found by searching the online catalog.

Vertical files

Over 2,000 files contain brochures, reports, articles, and ephemera for businesses, organizations, homes, buildings, and people in the Kansas City area. The list of titles may be accessed online.

Yearbooks and school newspapers

One of the most popular items in the Missouri Valley Room, yearbooks from area schools, colleges, universities date from the late nineteenth century to the present. Check our online list to see if we have the year you are searching for. We accept and welcome donations of the missing years. Contact us at 816.701.3427 or email lhistory@kclibrary.org.