5 reasons to visit Birmingham’s Linn-Henley Research Library

Linn-Henley Research Library
The front of the Linn-Henley Research Library. Photo by Matthew Nibblett for Bham Now.

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

Inside the Linn-Henley Research Library
You can scan through documents at a table just like this. Photo by Matthew Nibblett for Bham Now.

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!

3) Marvel at Ezra Winter’s murals

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The mural of Bellerophon and Pegasus. Photo by Matthew Nibblett for Bham Now.

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!

O.V. Hunt

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Photo by Oscar Virgil Hunt on July 25, 1913, showing construction of the famous City Federal Building. Photo property of the Birmingham Public Library Archives and Manuscripts.

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

Linn-Henley Research
The Indiana limestone exterior. Photo by Matthew Nibblett for Bham Now.

The Linn-Henley Research Library itself is a work of art. The four-story Neo-Classical structure is made out of stunning Indiana limestone.

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The ceiling of the Linn-Henley Research Library. Photo by Matthew Nibblett for Bham Now.

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.

What is your favorite part of the Linn-Henley Research Library? Let me know by tagging us @BhamNow !

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Nathan Watson

Senior Content Producer with Bham Now | Originally from Tennessee, Nathan moved to The Magic City after graduating from Birmingham-Southern College. Nathan is passionate about recognizing Birmingham's history and is thrilled to learn more about the big things planned for The Magic City's future.

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