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Kentucky Library Research Collections – Collections

Kentucky Collection Political Civil War Genealogy
Visual Resources Music Robert Penn Warren Rare Books

The Kentucky Collection

Our library’s initial focus was Kentucky. Collection strengths include Mammoth Cave; religious denominations (including the Shakers); state, county, and town histories; biographies; maps; and travelers' accounts. Maps and newspapers created between 1720 the present, some of which are the only known copy, are a collection highlight. Access more information on these published sources via WKU Libraries’ online catalog TOPCAT.

Julius Rather Political Memorabilia Collection

Composed of more than 10,000 examples, the Rather Collection consists of memorabilia representing three main areas -- candidates running for office in Kentucky, Kentuckians running for national office and candidates campaigning for national office in Kentucky between 1830 and the present. Abraham Lincoln, Henry Clay, James Buchanan, Harry S. Truman, and Alben Barkley are among the politicians best represented. More recent additions include campaign items associated with politicians like Ronald Reagan, Walter Mondale, Jimmy Carter, Michael Dukakis and George Bush. Important Kentucky politicos include William Goebel, Albert "Happy" Chandler, and John Sherman Cooper. Search KenCat for additional information

Civil War & Southern History

At present the nucleus of the Civil War & Southern History research center in the Special Collections Library is an extensive microfilm collection of Old South, Civil War, and Gilded Age documents and manuscripts, including: Records of Antebellum Southern Plantations from the Revolution through the Civil War; Records of Southern Plantations from Emancipation to the Great Migration; Letters Received by the Attorney General; Civil War Battles and Campaigns; Civil War Unit Histories: Regimental Histories and Personal Narratives; Confederate Military Manuscripts; Papers of Union Staff Officers, 1861-1865; and the Journal of the Congress of the Confederate States of America.Search TOPCAT and in-house guides for additional information.

Genealogy & Local History

The Special Collections Library houses the largest local history and genealogical collection in Southern Kentucky with a wide array of print, microform and ephemera sources. Compiled over the last 80 years, family surname files and biography and obituary files provide access to numerous family charts and newsclippings. Regional obituaries dating from 1987-20007 may be accessible from a library database.  Over 300 scrapbooks document local organizations, families and individuals. The published collection includes county and local histories, individual families' newsletters, how-to guides, city directories, school yearbooks, and indexes of records such as marriage, death, cemetery, probate, military, and pension.  Microfilmed sources include vital records, church records, manuscripts, Federal census, and Soundex.  The library's collection also includes local business stationery and advertisements; social invitations; school and church programs and schedules; military and home front ephemera; flour bags; tourism brochures; paper dolls; clubs and local organizations' programs and yearbooks; and exonumia. Search online using TOPCAT and KenCat.

"The Kentucky Library has a partial index to obituaries and death notices from the Park City Daily News. Only the following dates are currently available to be searched: January 1, 1988 to December 31, 2007.

For current obituaries, consult the Park City Daily News online at Please note that these lists are just an index. Actual obituaries and death notices are not available online from the Kentucky Library. To request photocopies of obituaries found in this index, contact

For years NOT yet covered by the Index:
If you know a person's death date, the library staff will search local area newspapers in our collection (up to seven days after the death date) for an obituary or death notice. We are sorry, but we cannot search without a date of death

For surnames ending in A, B or C, you may also search the index by using TopSCHOLAR® and entering the search terms: Park City Daily News Obituary Index."

Visual Resources

Photographs, taken in south central Kentucky during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, document families, places, buildings, activities, and events. Over 10,000 vintage postcards, emphasizing Kentucky images, include a wide variety of subjects, that further enhance the collection.  

Collections and materials can be located online by using KenCat.

Southern Kentucky Music Collection

From Kentucky musicians’ collections as well as private homes, over 2000 pieces of sheet music published been 1840 to 1950 document that 100 years of music in Southern Kentucky. In recent years, local disc jockeys and musicians have greatly enhanced our collection, donating modern sound recordings and posters of local performers. Search online using KenCat.

Robert Penn Warren

Robert Penn Warren (1905-1989) lived in Kentucky for a relatively short part of his life, but Kentucky remained with him throughout his eighty-four years. Because of close ties with family and friends in south-central Kentucky, his family chose to give his personal library to Western Kentucky University after his death. In presenting the collection to the university, Warren's wife Eleanor Clark said she wanted others to have access to these items because of their "intimate working importance" to Warren. Search online using TOPCAT to discover the holdings of the Kentucky Collection and the Robert Penn Warren Library of the Special Collections Library. Additional information about Warren and the donations made specifically to the Robert Penn Warren Library, read the Robert Penn Warren Library.

Rare Books

Over WKU’s 100 year history, University Libraries’ collection of rare books has provided opportunities for students to explore our globe. Through donations and occasional purchases, rare and representative nineteenth century children’s books, histories, literature, and textbooks broaden researchers’ access to global understanding of culture and history. Search online using TOPCAT.






Note: documents in Portable Document Format (PDF) require Adobe Acrobat Reader 5.0 or higher to view,
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Note: documents in Excel format (XLS) require Microsoft Viewer,
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Note: documents in Word format (DOC) require Microsoft Viewer,
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Note: documents in Powerpoint format (PPT) require Microsoft Viewer,
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Note: documents in Quicktime Movie format [MOV] require Apple Quicktime,
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 Last Modified 11/21/17