Ever wanted to learn more about Birmingham’s history? Here at the top 5 reasons to check out the Linn-Henley Research Library!
1) Discover the history of your house
Have you ever wanted to know if someone famous used to live in your house? Boudleaux and Felice Bryant (the writers of Rocky Top) used to live in my childhood home back in Tennessee! If you’ve ever wanted to know the fun history behind your house or workplace, the Board of Equalization collection at the archives is where to check.
The files in the collection generally include an exterior photo of the property, the date of construction, and other relevant data.
“People can see when a house was built what it looked like, who’s lived there, and what businesses have been in that building. It is a great resource for the community.Jim Baggett, Head of the Department of Archives and Manuscripts
2) See Birmingham’s important documents
If the Board of Equalization files don’t grab your attention, don’t worry. The archives are home to some of the most important documents in Birmingham’s history. Here are some of the most interesting!
- The original land survey of Birmingham laying out the streets and city blocks
- The 1963 jail docket showing Martin Luther King, Jr.’s arrest
- Letters signed by writers such as Margaret Mitchell, Flannery O’Connor, and even Sir Arthur Conan Doyle!
- The first published version of Martin Luther King, Jr’s Letter from Birmingham Jail
3) Marvel at Ezra Winter’s murals
The Linn-Henley building was constructed in 1927 as the home of the Birmingham Public Library. Two years later, the Library Board commissioned artist Ezra Winter to paint a mural series for the main room of the library and the children’s room.
The murals in the main room feature 16 literature scenes from all around the world. For example, Don Quixote and his squire Sancho Panza represent Spain. Lancelot, representing English literature, rides his horse. Meanwhile, the Greek Pegasus stands ready to be ridden by Bellerophon.
4) Check out Birmingham’s best photo collections
If you aren’t careful, you might get lost in the Department of Archives and Manuscripts for days. After all, the collection has more than 30,000,000 documents and 500,000 photos!
By now, I think it is clear that I am obsessed with the O.V. Hunt photo collection. It may have something to do with digitally scanning about 3000 photos of the collection while I interned at the Archives… But I guess we will never know.
Oscar Virgil Hunt took photos of Birmingham from the early 1900s until his retirement in 1953. Throughout his career, Hunt likely took 60,000+ photographs of Birmingham. Although several hundred of his photos are available online, several thousand more are only stored in the Linn-Henley Research Library.
5) Stand in awe of the building itself
The Linn-Henley Research Library itself is a work of art. The four-story Neo-Classical structure is made out of stunning Indiana limestone.
Additionally, the inside is just as beautiful as the outside. The interior was renovated in 1984, and it is as breathtaking as the day it was finished.
Whether you’re looking to learn more about your house, about Birmingham, or just find a relaxing place to read, the Linn-Henley Research Library is worth visiting.