Last week, staff from the Monroe Library watched a webinar titled “Needles in the Haystack of History: How to Use the WPA Historical Records Survey.” The webinar discussed the Work Projects Administration Historical Records Survey (WPA HRS), a discovery tool for government records from the 1700s through the early 1940s. The webinar included presentations by librarians from the University of Missouri, Troy University, and the University of Kentucky, which is now a Center of Excellence for the WPA. You can view the slides from the webinar by clicking here, selecting “Slide Presentation” on the right, and clicking “View.”
The WPA was a New Deal agency aimed at employment of American workers public construction and arts and literacy projects. The Historical Records Survey was originally part of the WPA Federal Writers’ Project and dealt with surveying and indexing records held by state, county and local archives.
Documents produced by the Louisiana Historical Records Survey include directories of churches in Louisiana and inventories of manuscript and archival collections around the state. The project was conducted from 1935-1943, so the holdings of various archives around the state will have changed substantially. However, the WPA HRS publications provide some valuable information, including demographic and population statistics, bureaucratic processes, vital statistics, and cemetery and newspaper indexes. Publications such as the American Imprints Inventory: Bibliography of the Official Publications of Louisiana 1803-1934 provide information about where various publications were housed at the time and may provide clues to contemporary researchers trying to track down public records.
Some WPA HRS publications are digitized and available through the Hathi Trust Digital Library, including the Directory of churches and religious organizations in New Orleans, Calendars of manuscript collections in the Department of Archives, Louisiana State University (No. 1: Taber Collection), and Inventory of the records of World war emergency activities in Louisiana, 1916-1920. A full list of Louisiana Historical Records Survey publications in the Hathi Trust is available here. Hathi Trust also has digitized publications from many other states.
Special Collections & Archives at Loyola also has a number of publications which can be viewed Monday – Friday from 9am-4:30pm. The list of holdings is here.
Found in the Archives is a recurring series of crazy cool stuff found in the Monroe Library’s Special Collections & Archives.