The Library of Congress holds one of the largest collections available anywhere of books about local history.
Historian David J. Russo wrote one of the founding texts in local history, titled, Families and Communities: A New View of American History, published in 1974. As part of his research, he spent a year reading hundreds of books in the Library of Congress Local History collection. [Carol Kammen, Pursuit of Local History, 1996, p. 33] Researchers from around the world continue to rely on the Library's Local History collection and its related resources.
The Library of Congress Local History collection includes thousands of books about regions, states, counties, towns, and villages. It also includes several volumes on how local history has evolved in different times and places. In addition, the collection offers a number of works on how one can create local histories.
The Library of Congress does not collect local records. However, when the publishing of books on local history was at its most popular, their authors often gathered local records and published them in books. Understandably, such records represent only small and select samples that the authors chose to collect and publish, so they are not complete or comprehensive. Nonetheless, the great size of our Local History collection means that one can often consult, here in the Jefferson building, some local records of interest that one would otherwise have to travel to local cemeteries or county courthouses to find. Such records are useful for doing genealogy of course, but they also illuminate a great many other research topics as well.
Local history remains robust and popular. Nowadays, however, the great bulk of it is born digital. Before the internet, the primary method for transmitting local history was to publish books, or articles--in local history journals or in local newspapers. Due in part to how necessarily specific the focus of local history is, most of it has not yet been digitized. As genealogy grows increasingly popular, online subscription genealogical databases are publishing more local materials, unsurprisingly starting with those that relate directly to genealogy. This leaves a great deal of local history material that remains undigitized.
The books below represent just a small sampling; there are many more of each kind in the Library of Congress collection.
To find a local history in our collection, search the Library of Congress Online Catalog. Click on Browse. You will see a box at left, with "Title" as the default search parameter. Click the down arrow next to Title to see a drop-down menu, and select "Subjects Containing." In the box at right, enter the name of the county and the state, both fully spelled out, as in: Floyd County, Virginia. For most parts of the country, this kind of search on a county generally yields the most results.
The United States has a long tradition of local history, that encompasses rural, suburban, and urban.
These works offer ideas and suggestions for creating local histories--not only by writing and publishing books, but also by conducting oral history interviews, or creating film, video, and radio presentations, exhibits, booklets, posters, and more.