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St. Louis History: Home

Where to Begin

There are many options for research when looking up these local history topics. Some information will not be readily found on a Google search because it will be found in database/electronic collections on library or historical society websites and must be searched there. Be strategic. Having a variety of sources with different perspectives is going to be integral. 

Step One: Wikipedia. Sure, go ahead and go there. Gather basic dates, names, and a general overview. Quickly leave there.

Step TwoHistorical Newspapers Database. Includes articles from the St. Louis Post Dispatch from 1874-2003. These will not be found on stltoday.com (2003-Present); they must be searched through the database. **If you can't get full-text access to stltoday.com, come see the librarians.**

Step Three:The Catalog. The beauty of using a book specific to your topic: someone has already gathered the research together in one place and provided some analysis. Once you find a helpful book, LOOK AT THEIR SOURCES and try to find those.

Step Four: Does the organization you are researching have a website? Go to the "About Us". What is the pitfall here? Will you get the whole story? Go back to Step 2. Look for news reports.

Step Five: Use local history resource centers like the State Historical Society of Missouri (SHSMO) which have digitized collections and research guides! Very strong in African American history, business history.

Step Six: If your topic has a physical location--go there! Many are museums or have specialists that can assist you with resources they might have on hand. St. Louis Public Library St. Louis History room, Jefferson Barracks Museums, Alton Museum of History, National Great Rivers Museum (in Alton), Bellefontaine Cemetery, St. Charles County Historical Society are just some of the places to visit. 

Research Hint

Be thoughtful about how you conduct searches. Sometimes, especially when searching in a contained environment like our library catalog, it will be best if you search broadly first (search St. Louis History for example). Browse through the results and see what is there. If your search is too narrow you might get zero results. We do have books on your topic but you will have to search strategically. 

For example. If your topic is "St. Louis highways" and that search is made in the catalog, one book comes up. However, if you think what the broader topic might be there are several other sources. Urban renewal, for example, is a relevant topic and if you then searched "St. Louis urban renewal" three more relevant books will come up. The key is to be persistent and to make multiple searches at different points in your research process.