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Special Collections Libraries

  • Clayton_landing
  • Gregory_landing
  • HMRC_landing

African American Library at the Gregory School


As the first library of its kind in Houston and one of the few African American libraries in the country, the Gregory School serves as a resource to preserve, promote, and celebrate the rich history and culture of African Americans in Houston, the surrounding region, and the African Diaspora.

This historic building is housed in the Edgar M. Gregory School built in 1926, which served as the first public school for African Americans in Houston.

Plan a visit

  • At this time, all visits must be scheduled in advance.
  • The streets in our area are one-way. Be mindful when using your GPS.
  • The parking lot and entrance are at 1300 Cleveland Street.
  • USB flash drive is required for digital copies of microfilmed materials. 
  • We are unable to provide change, so bring small bills or coins for photocopiers.
Services
Research Help
We offer research strategies and resource recommendations to assist library users in locating materials that will aid in their research.

Staff are not able to perform in-depth research involving extensive research through a variety of sources on behalf of library users.
Copy Requests
USB or photocopies.
Finding Aids
Consider these an extended table of contents which describe unique materials only available in the archival repositories of the Houston Public Library. In most cases, the collections themselves are NOT available online. Please contact us if you have any questions!
Tours
In Person Tours
are currently suspended.
Items to Bring
Items
• Research notes and information gathered on your subject of interest.
• Houston Public Library MyLink card. (or a TX driver’s license or ID to apply for a MyLink card)
• Sweater or jacket.
• Small bills or coins for photocopiers.
• Flash drive for scanning/saving documents from computers, microprint, or notebook paper.

Collections
Manuscripts
Personal and professional papers of African American Houstonians for researchers to use. These include businesses, social clubs, families, individuals, religious, service and cultural organizations.
Oral Histories
Interviews conducted with people who have made important contributions to Houston’s African American experience. Refer to the HPL Digital Archives.
Photographs
Refer to the HPL Digital Archives.
Obituaries and Funeral Programs
These are not only useful for genealogists, but for cultural anthropologists and researchers interested in compiling data about African Americans in the area.
Ephemera
Personal family archives, videos, DVD’s, LPs, and other materials that capture the African American cultural, musical, historical, and social experience.
Government Papers and Records
Documents that are important to Houston’s African American history, such as those relating to the establishment of San Felipe Courts (later Allen Parkway Village), the effort to have Freedmen’s Town added to the National Register of Historic Places, and copies of military records relating to the 1917 Camp Logan race riot.
Journals
Our collection of scholarly journals includes primary sources such as The Journal of Negro History from 1916 and The Negro History Bulletin from 1939.
Vertical Files
Clippings from newspapers, journals, and magazines relating to the history of African Americans in Houston and Texas. The files are divided into three categories: Biography, Houston, and Texas. The Texas files include people and events that are native to Texas, but not Houston, such as events taking place in Fort Worth or Dallas.
Newspapers
The majority of our newspapers are on microfilm. These consist of local African American newspapers, such as The Informer and The Forward Times. We also maintain a collection of current newspapers in print form e.g. African-American News & Issues and the Houston Defender.
Print Materials
Books about the African American experience in Houston and the United States and those that support the library’s archival collections. These items are searchable in our online catalog. All materials are non-circulating and for library use only.
Gregory School Repository

Clayton Library Center for Genealogical Research


Originally established in 1968 in the former home of Houston businessman and statesman William Lockhart Clayton, the Clayton Library has grown to become one of the nation’s top genealogical research collections.

As a Houston Public Library special collection, Clayton Library houses genealogy research materials covering all U.S. states and sources for international family history research.  Staffed by experts who work individually with researchers, they invite you to share your research questions with us.   

Plan a visit

  • At this time, we remain closed to the public but are offering remote assistance.
  • Clayton Library at 5300 Caroline Street has free parking for library visitors. 
  • The Main Building is on the left, and the historic buildings (Clayton House, Carriage House, and Guest House) are on the right.
  • Coin-activated lockers are available for storage of items.
  • Food and drinks are not permitted in the library.
  • Public computers are available for genealogical research.
Services
Research Help
Our services include working one on one with researchers on their family history research questions offering research strategies and resource recommendations that will aid in their research.

Unfortunately, the staff does not engage in personal research for hire.

For extensive, in-depth research we can provide, upon request, a list of local area genealogical researchers with whom you can contact for in-depth research request you would like to have done by a professional researcher.

Copy Requests
$2.00 per citation plus $1.00 per page.

Please send exact citations for the title and page numbers you are requesting.
Tours
Group Visits
In person tours are currently suspended. You can call 832-393-2600 to make a research appointment.
Request a Speaker
Call 832-393-2600 to arrange for a staff member to come out and speak to your group on Beginning Genealogy or other genealogical topics.

We prefer a month’s notice to ensure adequate staffing at the library while the staff member is at your location.
Items to Bring
Items
• Information about the persons/families you are researching.
• Houston Public Library MyLink card. (or a TX driver’s license or ID to apply for a MyLink card)
• Please bring a sweater or jacket.
• We are unable to provide change, so bring small bills or coins for photocopiers.
• Flash drive for scanning/saving documents from computers, microprint, or notebook paper.

Houston Metropolitan Research Center

The Houston Metropolitan Research Center (HMRC) is a research library and archives that houses materials such as photographs, documents, maps, building plans, journals, oral histories, and books for the study of Houston’s history.

We also have a collection of children’s literature from the 1800s to the 1970s, many valuable and rare books, and books on the history of printing.

Given how unique many of our materials are, they may not be checked out. The HMRC is located in the historic Julia Ideson Building in downtown Houston.

Plan a Visit

  • At this time, all visits must be scheduled in advance.
  • Entry is on 550 McKinney St. or through the garden on the Lamar and Smith sides of the building.
  • Parking is available in the garage beneath the Central Library (Lamar St. side) on the same block for $2 per hour.
  • When you arrive, lock away your belongings and show the reference staff your ID to get checked in!
Services
Reference
We offer research strategies and resource recommendations to assist library users in locating materials that will aid in their research.
Reproductions
• Image Reproduction
• Sound Recordings and Moving Images

Copy Requests
When supplied with an exact citation we can provide low-resolution (less than 300dpi) scans of up to 50 pages/sheets of material per remote reference assistance request, with a maximum of 5 such requests per month.

The cost of this document delivery service from printed materials is $1 per citation and $1 per page, from microprint $2 per citation and $1 per page.
Finding Aids
Consider these an extended table of contents which describe unique materials only available in the archival repositories of the Houston Public Library.

In most cases, the collections themselves are NOT available online. Please contact us if you have any questions!
Tours
In Person Tours
are currently suspended.
Items to Bring
Items
• Research notes and information gathered on your subject of interest.
• Houston Public Library MyLink card. (or a TX driver’s license or ID to apply for a MyLink card)
• Please bring a sweater or jacket.
• We are unable to provide change, so bring small bills or coins for photocopiers.
• Flash drive for scanning/saving documents from computers, microprint, or notebook paper.

Archival Collections
Photographs
PhotographsOur photographic collections contain over four million images which highlight day-to-day activity in Houston and Texas, primarily from the 1860s to the 1980s.

Images cover subjects such as farming, industry, oil exploration, transportation, architecture, festivals, parades, natural disasters, cultural, civic, and sporting events, to name a few. The Houston Post photograph collection covers assignments from the late 1950s to the mid 1980s.

Additionally, a significant portion of material also comes from area commercial photographers such as William Fritz, George Beach, Frank Schlueter, Bert Brandt, and Joseph Litterst.
Architecture
ArchitectureOur architectural collections reflect a range of the region's architectural history. The principal focus of the collections is architectural drawings but also includes correspondence, office records, job logs, specifications, photographs, shop drawings, and oral history interviews.

Major series of records from architectural firms include those of Maurice J. Sullivan, Alfred C. Finn, Harvin C. Moore, Frank Meyer, and Hare & Hare, landscape architects. Dozens of other architects and architectural firms are represented.

There is a significant collection of drawings for parks commissioned by the Houston Parks & Recreation Department.
Hispanic Collections
Hispanic CollectionsOur Hispanic collections represent contributions and experiences of Houston's Hispanic community throughout the 20th century.

Records such as the papers of civil rights attorney John J. Herrera; photographs of Club Chapultepec, a young women’s club in the 1930s; advertisements for Lydia Mendoza’s musical performances; and Papel Chicano, a newspaper born out of Houston’s Chicano Movement, reveal the impact of the Hispanic community on Houston's history.
Oral Histories
Oral HistoriesPart of our collecting scope is to capture stories and interviews of Houstonians by way of oral history.

The founding HMRC Oral History Collection is made up of community members, artists, musicians, civil rights activists, politicians, and civic leaders who helped define the growth and history of the city.

Over the decades, staff has continued to develop this collecting medium by way of conducting in-depth interviews, hosting collecting days and partnering in memory projects, and accessioning other oral history endeavors.

Collection highlights include the Bill White Oral History Project and the Texas Jazz Archive oral histories.
Sound Recordings & Moving Images
Sound Recordings & Moving ImagesWe have over 500 recordings spanning several decades of Houston's history. Materials encompass a variety of formats from cassette to CD and film reel to DVD.

These include radio broadcasts, television news reports, conferences, mayoral speeches, and more. Featured collections include the KHOU TV film collection of newscasts from the 1960s-1970s, and the Orris D. Brown film collection that captures amateur film footage of Houston in the 1930s.
Special Collections
Texas & Local History
The Texas and Local History Collection is utilized on a daily basis and houses a number of significant research resources. There are over 14,000 books related to Texana and regional history, and an impressive collection of regional school and university yearbooks.

The collection touts maps of Houston dating back to 1837, with early maps of The Heights and Harrisburg; Sanborn fire insurance maps; Bracey's block maps, topographic maps of many Texas cities; and aerial photos of Houston from 1935-1990. Included are Houston city directories from the 19th century to present, and directories from many other Texas cities.

This collection also offers extensive 19th century Houston and Galveston newspapers; microfilmed copies of African American periodicals such as the Houston Defender, the Houston Informer, and the Houston Forward Times; microfilmed copies of Houston's Jewish Herald-Voice and the San Antonio Jewish Weekly.

Our vertical files consists of newspaper clippings and other paper material of local coverage of Houston events, people, and places over the last century.
Culbertson
The Culbertson Adult Special Collections consists of materials that originate from historic donations throughout HPL's existence, and is named in honor of Warren A. Culbertson, whose estate made a generous donation to the archives. It features smaller collections, such as a well-rounded Mark Twain collection, reference works on rare and fine press books, and a selection of illustrated books from around the world. The Finnigan Collection is of particular interest as it contains exquisite and rare items from the history of the written word, including Arabic manuscripts, early Aldine Press materials, and a 15th century Book of Hours from Flanders.

Of special note is the Circle M Library, or the Milsaps Collection. Initially gifted by Major John Ephraim Thomas Milsaps of the Salvation Army in 1903, he continued to collect and donate materials from locations where he served; including London and France, where he was stationed during World War I. The collection includes approximately 12,000 books and 3,000 pamphlets. Fields of interest include slavery, the Civil War, the Philippines during the Spanish-American War and the subsequent insurrection, and world religions. There is also the most complete run in existence of the War Cry, the Salvation Army newspaper that Milsaps edited. In addition to his books, Milsaps also donated 74 volumes of his diaries, a hand-illustrated, highly entertaining window into the life of this important Houstonian.
Norma Meldrum
The Norma Meldrum Juvenile Special Collections  began as an active children’s library in the early 1900s, funded by a donation from the Meldrum family, whose daughter Norma who died of scarlet fever at eight years old.

What were new publications, eagerly handled by Houston's children in 1910, have since become valuable American juvenilia. In this collection you'll find copies of Louisa May Alcott and Horatio Alger books that inspired young people of a century ago, the frightening story of Struwwelpeter, Andrew Lang's color Fairy books, histories of a much younger United States, and non-fiction books with publication dates from the 1870s to the 1970s. T

his collection also includes an exceptionally fine selection of books illustrated by Kate Greenaway, Bertha L. Corbett, Arthur Rackham, N. C. Wyeth, and Jessie Wilcox Smith.