Lexington Public Library

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The Lexington Public Library’s Digital Archives provide open access to researchers and students to learn more about the rich history of Lexington and Fayette County. It contains a fraction of the Library’s physical holdings, which are housed and available for reference in the Kentucky Room at the Central Library. New material is being digitized and added constantly, so there's always something new to find.

The archives have a simple keyword search, and it is possible to browse the collections by subject, area, or decade. The Lexington Public Library actively reviews and labels materials in our archives with statements that indicate how you may reuse the images, and what sort of permission, if any, you need to do so. Please check the information for each image to determine its legal status.

The Lexington Public Library has made an effort to ensure that all of our digital collections are public domain, or that we have gotten approval from the copyright holders to display their work. Most - but not all - of these collections, to the best of our knowledge, have no known US copyright restrictions. Some items in the collection are under copyright but qualify for online display by libraries under Section 108(h) of United States Copyright Law. Some of the collections provided in the Library's Digital Archives are made available under an assertion of fair use, which does not necessarily apply to an individual's use of them.

The Digital Studio provides people of all skill levels the tools for filmmaking, photography and digital art, music making, and media preservation.

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Learn more about Fayette County and our rich history with the Kentucky Room's Digital Archives. Search photo collections, historical newspapers and publications, and community collections with a simple search. New material is continually being scanned and added.
 
Digital Archives - Collection

The True American was an anti-slavery newspaper started by Cassius Marcellus Clay in June 1845. He ran the paper in Lexington until August of 1845, when he published an article deemed so incendiary that a court injunction was issued against his printing, and his press shipped to Cincinnati. An advocate of the right to a free press, and his right of free speech, Clay continued printing the paper through 1847 in Cincinnati. The paper was distributed in Lexington. While focused on advancing the cause of emancipation, Clay also published poetry, agriculture, labor, and commercial news. There are also marriage and death notices from the surrounding area, some national.

Cassius Marcellus Clay was a fiery figure in Kentucky history. He often fought in duels and in street fights, generally in response to arguments against his emancipationist views. Later in life, he often had shootouts with the Madison County Sheriff at his home, Whitehall.

After the publication of his incendiary editorial (August 12, 1845, page 3 columns 1-4), he is said to have armed his printing shop with two brass cannons and myriad other weapons to fend off any attacks. The committee charged with removing his press did so while Clay was incapacitated with a fever, avoiding what surely would have been a deadly counterattack from Clay. In the March 18, 1846 paper, Clay addresses the attack, and continues his fiery rhetoric, finally offering a discount to non-slaveholders in slave states.

Clay is featured in an episode of the Library’s podcast "Tales from the Kentucky Room", which is linked below.

The Library only has a short run of The True American. It has been digitized from the microfilm, which can be accessed in the Kentucky Room. Several issues have significant mildew damage, so in some cases the OCR quality may be poor, though the print itself is still legible.
 

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Discover unique resources in our Digital Archives that tell the story of Fayette County.  Visit cemeteries throughout Central Kentucky using our cemetery maps.  Contact our resident experts in the Central Library's Kentucky Room with questions.

The Luna Library, a program of Believing in Forever, collects and distributes children's books with an African American history or Black character focus. It is an alternative for African American parents looking for books that provide context and knowledge to understand the stories of the African American experience in this country for their children. Believing in Forever is a champion of diversity and inclusion, and the positive impact books have on children of all races.

Walking Tour

Join us for a walking tour of Downtown Lexington’s African American Heritage Sites. The full tour is available as a single MP3, or you can download individual tracks. For the single MP3, music will play between the stops. You can pause the track while you walk between stops.

This tour covers a walking distance of 1.7 miles.

The music clips used in this tour are from “Walking Barefoot on Grass” by Kai Engel, and are used with a CCBY license. It is available here: http://freemusicarchive.org/music/Kai_Engel/

Join us for a walking tour of Downtown Lexington’s African American Heritage Sites. The full tour is available as a single MP3, or you can download individual tracks. For the single MP3, music will play between the stops.

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Learn by doing. Get hands-on practice with cutting edge technology at our Digital Studio, Kloiber Foundation STEAM Lab, and Makerspace on your own or learn from our expert staff during structured programs.

Digital Archives - Collection - Group
Kentucky Progress magazine

The Publications Collection contains runs of historical Kentucky newspapers, almanacs, and magazines. 

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Join us for Kentucky Legends: a series of programs exploring Kentucky culture, history, and lore. Programs include author visits, Chautauqua performances, live music, activities and crafts, and more.

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Download eBooks, audiobooks, magazines, and more – free with your library card.

Digital Archives - Collection - Group
Sample directory page

The library has a variety of directories and yearbooks with local information. In the library's current digital collection, there is a selection of residential and street directories, yearbooks, school directories, and organizational directories. These are all fully word-searchable.

 

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Wonderful podcasts and walking tours have been created by our staff. Please enjoy!

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All databases are available from this page.

Digital Archives - Collection - Group
group of children in Grade 5B at Constitution School
The Community Collections consist of objects shared from local community residents and organizations. Individuals have lent items of local significance to the library to give the larger community awareness and access. The original objects are not owned by the Lexington Public Library. 
 
Submissions for the Community Collections are open. If you are an individual or organization interested in possibly lending items to be digitized by the library, please contact elibrarian@lexpublib.org. We consider item age, location, content, relevance, privacy considerations, and item condition when determining items to add. Content donors must be the legal copyright holders if the item is not in the public domain.
 
Kentucky History Awards Icon noting this collection received the award in 2019.

 

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Read articles from magazines and journals, learn a new language, or locate a newspaper article. These resources can't be found with a search engine but are available for free with your library card.

Thanks for your interest in joining the Lexington Public Library!  Your library card is the key to checking out books, downloading audiobooks, taking online classes, and much more.  Please check here to find out if you qualify for a library card and how to apply.

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Find out what's happening at our locations.  Browse upcoming events and discover our dedicated learning spaces.  Reserve a meeting room.  Explore our galleries and special collections.

Are you just starting your family tree, or have you run into a brick wall tracing a distant ancestor? Join us to share tips and learn new research strategies. All levels of experience are welcome!

The Materials Selection Policy was initially adopted February 25, 1987 by the Lexington Public Library Board of Trustees and was revised March 24, 1993. The Materials Selection Policy was updated and renamed the Collection Development Policy which was approved by the Board on January 14, 2009. The Board of Trustees assumes full responsibility for all legal actions which may result from the implementation of any policies stated herein.