In order to make the “ABC’s of Kentucky” print, we knew that we needed to dig deeper and get a closer look at our Kentucky roots, which is why we made a trip to the Kentucky Room at the Central Branch of the Lexington Public Library. Established in the 1920s, The Kentucky Room houses hundreds of years of newspapers, state and local government documents, and fascinating lore from county histories. When we arrived, we got a glance into these rich archives, and were thrilled with what we found. With the help of the librarians there, we were able to compile a complete Kentucky Alphabet, each letter representing a different piece of Commonwealth lore.
While touring the Kentucky Room, we learned many new facts! In the wild days of the 1960s, for example, the artist Henry Faulkner could be found running naked through the library stacks, just to play pranks on the librarians there…a racy way to get your kicks, but we approve.
One of the stranger items in the collection is a scrapbook of funeral notices from 1806-1887 that were gathered by Cyrus Parker Jones, an African American who operated a stall in the Lexington Market who may have hand-delivered many of the notices himself.
Not only can people come to the archives to learn about their Commonwealth, they are often able to dig into their own pasts. The librarians in the Kentucky Room have even been able to reunite families using genealogical data, microfilm, city directories, and the many modern digital tools at their disposal.
Though many genealogists and local historians frequent the Kentucky Room stacks, anyone can come in to learn more about the finer details of our state. As Virginia McClure, Eli Warner and Patrick Lynch explained to us, “The goal of the Kentucky Room is to promote the study of and interest in our community and state.” That’s something that we can definitely get down with here at Kentucky for Kentucky!
Words by Hannah Legris and photos by Stanley Sievers