Vermont’s public libraries are often the first place to begin research. In addition to finding good background materials and secondary sources in the non-fiction sections, often one can find town and community histories on the rare book or local materials shelves. Some local libraries also have archival materials—especially when the community is without a historical society. Vermont’s local libraries are also the gateways for some fee-based Internet archives. For a directory of Vermont’s public libraries, go to: http://libraries.vermont.gov/libraries/websites/public
Town Histories in Your Library
Many of Vermont’s town histories were written in the nineteenth century, though some have been updated more recently. Often the authors were writing about people and places they actually knew or had heard about from older relatives, friends, and community members. While this can mean that these histories contain much of interest for researchers, it can also prove frustrating as there are usually very few footnotes that might lead to additional information.
One early Vermont historian was Abby Hemenway. She was the editor of the Vermont Historical Gazetteer, a five-volume compendium of the state’s local history published between 1860 and 1892. Her goal was to collect and publish single-handedly the history of every town in her state. The Vermont Historical Gazetteer is another resource for community history. Many libraries have at least the volume for their county. (Windsor County is not included, because the manuscripts for it were destroyed in a fire before it could be published.)
Two other important libraries:
The Leahy Library of the Vermont Historical Society is the caretaker of a variety of resources documenting the history and people of Vermont, including a collection of books and pamphlets dating from the 1770s to the present. The voices, ideas, and commerce of the past are preserved there in unique letters, diaries, ledgers, and scrapbooks. Some of Vermont ’s earliest maps and planning documents are available here. Extensive photograph and broadside collections create a visual record of the state’s past.
The Special Collections Department of the Bailey/Howe Library houses the Wilbur Collection of Vermont materials (published books and periodicals, manuscript collections, maps, photographs, etc.), the Rare Book Collection, and the University Archives (official records of the University; located in the Library Research Annex). The Special Collections reading room and offices are located on the ground floor of the Bailey/Howe Library.