Ok… Not really. I am not a real Historian yet, but spending this past Saturday in the Missouri Valley Special Collections sure made me feel that way. It was the first time I have researched there, although I have worked with their website. I was actually kind of nervous to visit the Special Collections because I have never conducted research in that capacity and while I was confident that they had some of the stuff I was looking for, I could not really be sure until I began researching.
When I arrived, I found the staff to be quite attentive and helpful. They had me write down a list of things I was looking for with the collection number or finding aid and then retrieved it for me. I also get an official ‘Research Card’ which I am probably way too excited about.
As they brought me out document after document, I began to feel overwhelmed and hoped that I was finding the right information. Sometimes the documents were filled with all the right information and other times I only found a sentence or two relating to my research. All that to say, I was still impressed with the vast amount of information stored away in their archives in vertical files. I only found a few items that I needed to research that the MVSC did not have any documentation for.
Perhaps my best success was with the church histories that are contained in manilla folders in the vertical files. Not only did these contain detailed architectural histories, but also rich detail about the history of the church from its formation (usually in the late 1800s) to its present congregation and location. This information was helpful because some of the other churches I have researched, their information located in Religious Property Surveys, are more about architecture and make it difficult to tease out the history of the congregation itself or religious organization. To the left is an example of one of the churches, Country Club Christian Church, and an opening history that the author provided.
Overall, I found my experience at the MVSC to be helpful an beneficial. I almost felt like a real Historian as I combed through archival materials. The staff there is great and more than willing to help you research. If you are working on a project about Kansas City or Missouri history, this is the place to go!