Kentucky Historical Society

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The Kentucky Historical Society (KHS) was formed in 1836 by a group of prominent Kentuckians intent on preserving the history of the Commonwealth. It was chartered as the state society in 1838 and began to collect books and printed materials. KHS became an agency of Kentucky state government in the early 1950s and is now part of the Kentucky Tourism, Arts & Heritage Cabinet.

The KHS history campus includes its headquarters, the Thomas D. Clark Center for Kentucky History, the Old State Capitol and the Kentucky Military History Museum at the Old State Arsenal. KHS has more than 3,900 members and more than 1,300 junior members to whom it provides support and educational services. Outreach programs collaborate with more than 430 local historical organizations. The KHS is administered by an executive committee and is also supported by the KHS Foundation, a 501(c)(3) organization.

The Kentucky Historical Society educates and engages the public through Kentucky’s history in order to confront the challenges of the future. The museum, which houses a collection of over 120,000 artifacts, is a Smithsonian Affiliate Museum and has full American Alliance of Museums accreditation. The Kentucky Historical Society produces two publications: Kentucky Ancestors, a free, online publication about researching Kentucky's families. The Register of the Kentucky Historical Society, a members only, peer-reviewed, scholarly journal. (Back issues from 1903-2009 can be accessed for free through JStor.)

New Database to find Kentuckians in the Civil War: Civil War Governors of Kentucky (Free - Docs from citizens to Governors - searchable database.)

Martin F. Schmidt Research Library[edit | edit source]

Located on the second floor of the Thomas D. Clark Center for Kentucky History, the Martin F. Schmidt Research Library holds the largest genealogical collection in the state. This beautiful research facility features more than 16,000 rolls of microfilm, 90,000 books and periodicals, and 30,000 vertical files focused primarily on Kentucky history and genealogy. The Society's Archival Collections of 1,900 cubic feet of manuscripts, 2,000 maps, 8,000 oral histories, 200,000 historic photographs, and 9,100 rare books provide unique resources to researchers of the Commonwealth.

Collections Access:

The Library, which provides access to both the General Stacks and Archival Collections, is open Wednesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. Admission to the library is free for KHS members, or $8.00 per day for non-members. (Included as part of general campus admission.) (Check the main website for current hours of operation)

The Library Collections Catalog for the Martin F. Schmidt library is available online, as is the Society's Digital Collections Catalog, which includes over 20,000 images of original manuscripts, maps, photographs and finding aids for a portion of the Archival collections at the Kentucky Historical Society. Images of over 85,000 museum artifacts can be accessed via the Objects Catalog. The library is a FamilySearch Affiliate, and as such, library patrons may order microforms from the vast collection held by the Salt Lake City-based Family History Library for temporary use at the Kentucky Historical Society.

For more than a hundred and eighty years, the Society has been collecting research materials which help shed light on the lives of Kentuckians in earlier times. The majority of the collections at KHS are non-circulating, however, some items from the General Stacks are available via Interlibrary Loan. ILL Circulating material is considered on a case by case basis and should be requested through your local Public Library from OCLC symbol KNU. To access the bulk of the collections, researchers are encouraged to visit the facilities located in the Thomas D. Clark Center for Kentucky History during library hours. Fee based Research Services are also available for those who cannot visit on-site.


100 West Broadway
Frankfort, Kentucky  40601

Phone: 502–564-1792 

The information above was provided by Cheri Daniels, Head of Reference Services at the Kentucky Historical Society. Last updated, January 2017.