Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Filson Historical Society and Library (100th Article!)

Filson Marks 100th Biblio-Article!

It is with great pleasure that I bring you the grand Filson Historical Society today: now, I did not plan this, but it just so happens that today's article marks the 100th "On Books and Biblios" blog, since our inception back in May 2009! Of course, these sorts of benchmarks are arbitrary, but "100" is such a nice number, and in the blogosphere, there's a bit of a psychological hurdle that you've jumped, once you've blogged for at least a year and have "the century" under your belt. But let this not be a moment to slack under feeling a smidge of minor accomplishment! I hope to keep pushing ahead with many, many, many more pieces about books on the streets, in libraries, in museums, in coffee shops, in cars, in the country, in the world, wherever we can find them!

But now, back to "the Filson," as it is often called. As you can see from the front and back of the historic marker-sign, John Filson (1753-88) was the first historian in Kentucky. Perhaps this meant "the first to write about Kentucky history." Nonetheless, the historical society of Louisville and its building, the Ferguson Residence, are named in honor of Mr. Filson.

My conspirator and co-pilot for the day, the good Rev. Dr. Haverly, enjoyed a moment of pause inside the Filson, with some busty men--some bronzey types, some marbly.

Some images of the many bookshelves in the Filson. The first floor (above) had an old reading library of sorts, along with some sitting and sun rooms. Below is an image of one of the upper floors, where the historical society and research library are located.

Two peculiar yet attractive ornaments in the Filson were these lights fashioned as brass insects: perhaps a grasshopper and dragonfly in Art Nouveau?

Above: a map in one of the research rooms. Below: the film reading room and card catalog.

The research library--seen above and below--was a remarkable place. The reference librarian was very friendly and helpful. Most of the material was arranged by state: yes, that's correct--by state, such as "Virginia," "Ohio," "Illinois," and (of course) "Kentucky." It seemed to deal mostly with states located in the mid-section of the country, which had some associated history to Kentucky. I didn't see any "Alaska" or "California" section, for example.

The top floor was, perhaps, the most important of floors, because it is where the archives are held. The archivist was processing materials, but spoke with me briefly. He was a very pleasant and helpful person, as well. The overall sense that I got was that people around here valued what they had, and they valued what they had, perhaps because they realized the importance of their long and rich history. It's good to know that some places in our archival world are being tended to and preserved, especially amid the complexities of financial crises. The Filson plugs on with a certain clarity and pride that other institutions (especially "local" institutions!) should follow. So let this Club of local history seekers, preservers, and lovers be our beacon for a better future of historical preservation and conservation; a beacon for expanding interest in tending to the past; and perhaps, even a beacon for yet another hundred biblio-blog postings.


  1. Congratulations on you 100th posting!

    Great work!!

  2. Thanks for visiting The Filson! Your pictures are lovely and your words about our good work much appreciated. Come back and visit anytime, or stay current with what’s happening at The Filson by visiting us online at

  3. can't wait to visit the filson - thanks for sharing!