Earlier this month I visited the State Historical Society of Missouri on the campus of the University of Missouri-Columbia, also known as MU/Mizzou.
State Historical Society of Missouri
(573) 882-7083 1020 Lowry Street
Columbia, Missouri 65201
1. Park. Parking is the only unpleasant part of going to the State Historical Society. I had a 15-minute walk from my car to the State Historical Society because I had to park off the main campus in the campus housing part of Columbia.
2. Find your way to the Ellis Library, which is on the main campus. Bring a map, or ask any of the hundreds of students walking around to point it out.
3. Find the State Historical Society. There is more than one entrance, but do not use the main entrance to Ellis Library.
4. Check in at front desk: Show a state ID card, receive a user card, and sign in.
5. Take all personal belongings except pencils, paper, binders, flash drives, etc. to lockers down the hall (including all bags, food and beverages). A locker is large enough to hold a purse of almost any size. It locks when a quarter is inserted; this is refunded after use.
6. There are no fees for using the library or its equipment. Photocopying costs 25 cents per page.
Numerous books for all Missouri counties
Missouri newspapers on microfilm
Family surname index covering hundreds of books in the collection
I had two objectives:
· Objective 1: Check the family surname index (not online- it’s a vintage-looking library card catalog) for people in my family tree
o Result: I found a few items of interest, but nothing major. There might be something more there for me at a future date. I am not yet ready to start researching an ancestor named William Lewis for fear that I will spend the rest of my life sorting through all of the William Lewises in Missouri.
· Objective 2: Check newspapers for records of important family events (primarily obituaries)
o Result: One of the newspapers I wanted to see was checked out, but the librarian helped me find an alternative. I was only able to find a few obituaries for my ancestors. That’s research, though. I was fortunate enough to locate a birth announcement for my great-grandfather. In 1893, he and his twin brother made the second set of twins in their family. This must have been a newsworthy item in the days before fertility treatments increased the chances of multiple births.
Setting and Staff: The library was well-staffed and quiet: no loud talking or phones constantly ringing. Though on the campus of a notorious party school, undergraduate students don't hang out in the State Historical Society between classes. The librarians were helpful, friendly, and very prompt when they retrieved items from the stacks. The microfilm machines are all new and easy to use after a librarian explained how one operated. The images I saved to flash drives were as good as or better than most microfilm machines provide.
Surprises: The State Historical Society has books from other states (I guess “State Historical Society” had me convinced the collections would be Missouri-only). I could have looked at books for counties in Tennessee, where many ancestors came from, but ran short on time.
Can’t Go There? The State Historical Society will do a research request for a fee.
Dining: And after a long day of research, you’ll probably be starving. Go to the downtown location of Shakespeare’s Pizza, which is less than ½ mile away. It was voted the Best College Hangout in the United States (according to Good Morning America in 2010) and has excellent pepper cheese pizza.