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Special Collections/Mississippi Valley Collections (Special/MVC) Resources


Special/MVC contains some 60,000 books on all aspects of regional history, natural history, and culture, as well as rare books on other subjects.  All Special/MVC books are cataloged and searchable by author, title, and subject in the online catalog.

Theses and Dissertations

Special/MVC is the location for the archival set of all theses and dissertations done at The University of Memphis.  These items are organized by year and author's name, and there are inventories available for searching by department. Copies of most theses and dissertations are cataloged as circulating books, though there may be some time-lag between receipt of the item and cataloging. (Beginning in 2010, all theses and dissertations are to be produced and made available in electronic format.)


Special/MVC holds some 1000 (one thousand) maps, mostly originals and mostly concentrated on the lower Mississippi valley region.  Only a portion of these maps have been fully cataloged, but the department has an easy-to-use card file for locating them.

Oral History Collection

Special/MVC has over 3000 (three thousand) interviews on many topics of local and regional interest, almost all produced by the Oral History Research Office of the UM History Department.  Some of the transcripts have been bound and cataloged as books, but many of them are locatable currently through an inventory list in the department.

Photographs and Postcards

Special/MVC contains thousands of postcards and tens of thousands of photographs.  Most photos are from the two major Memphis daily papers, the Commercial Appeal and the Press-Scimitar which closed in 1984.  In almost all cases, these are original black and white glossies and not clippings.  Very few predate 1930, but coverage of the period 1930-1984 is very good.  There are other photos in our topical "Icon Lots," and in some manuscript collections, box lists and inventories for which are available in the department.

Memphis Press-Scimitar Morgue Files

When this newspaper closed in 1984, the Special/MVC Department received its morgue file (a.k.a. "clipping library" or "library") along with the index files.  These files consist of clippings from the Press-Scimitar (and sometimes other papers), associated photos, and sometimes ephemeral materials such as programs, flyers, and brochures produced by people or organizations covered.
The Morgue File Index is available in the departmental reading room, and consists of hundreds of thousands of cards organized alphabetically by personal or corporate (i.e. organization) name, and sometimes by broad topic or category (i.e. "Desegregation").


There are over 600 separately named collections of manuscript materials--letters, diaries and journals, and personal, family, and organizational records--in Special/MVC.  The main focus is local and regional history, politics, and culture.  Collections vary in size from just one or two letters up to one hundred and more boxes covering several decades or generations.  Guides and finding aids to these collections are cataloged as books and searchable in the Library's online catalog, but there are gaps and interested persons are urged to consult with the Curator or other departmental staff before concluding that something does not exist.

Marvin Bensman's Radio Archives

The Bensman's collection is housed in the Special Collections area of the McWherter Library at the University of Memphis. Since there are 1500 hours of material it became impossible to keep transferring to each new format in real-time, so audio cassette is the only format available.

To obtain audio cassettes of these radio programs for your own private study, scholarship, research or teaching begin by browsing the catalog (alphabetized by program title). There is a wealth of the cultural and political history of the 20th Century to be found within these programs. Use Adobe Reader's "Find" to locate any particular title, date, or performer (where noted). Due to space restrictions all performers are not listed and some of the listings may be truncated. If you need more details about this collection, please contact Chris Ratiliff by phone (901) 678-2210 or email cratliff@memphis.edu.

  Questions, suggestions, or comments about Special/MVC resources or policies should be directed to Ed Frank, Curator of Special Collections.

Ed Frank
Preservation and Special Collections Department
Email: efrank@memphis.edu
Phone: (901) 678-8242
Fax: (901) 678-8218
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Last Updated: 1/23/13