The Moines Public Library offers databases, city directories and more
Des Moines Public Library offers research tools, databases and more for local history buffs or anyone interested in digging into the past.
Not only do we have hundreds of books and directories in our physical collection, but our online local history resources continue to expand. Find them by going to dmpl.org and clicking on the Search menu at the top of the page. Here’s some of what we have to offer online.
Stories and Images
The Research section of dmpl.org hosts a large collection of images and stories scanned for easy access. This includes everything from historical publications and programs celebrating historical milestones, to photos showing Des Moines at night in the early 20th century, to postcards, to Old Town street maps, and more.
Our Flickr collections also offer an excellent look into the past. Colored prints show scenes of the old Riverview Park, the old Central Library and the appearance of Walnut Street when automobiles were just starting to roll off the assembly lines. There are 10 different albums, each with dozens of photos and prints. (These can be found by visiting the search pages on dmpl.org.)
An easy way to start researching local history is through our collection of city directories. Directories contain an alphabetical list of businesses, businesses, and individuals, along with their historical address when available. These items are also sorted by mailing address and number, making it easy to find out which old businesses or houses were at current addresses. The Des Moines Public Library has digitized historical directories from 1860 to 1922 available online, as well as printed directories from 1910 to the present and telephone directories from 1957 to the present available for in-person consultation at the Central Library.
Des Moines Project
For an in-depth look at some local niche stories, check out our new digital resource, Project Des Moines. Each Des Moines Project “story” provides information about a person, place or special event in Des Moines history and includes great photos. You can quickly learn about the history of streetcars and streetcars in Des Moines, including when they spanned downtown rivers. You can learn why this apartment building on Martin Luther King, Jr. Parkway has “BREWERY” painted on the front of it. Relive the 1973 blizzard that dumped a foot of snow in the subway and learn more about the life of Hoyt Sherman (yes, he’s related to the famous Civil War general William Tecumseh Sherman).
Find out at projectdesmoines.dmpl.org.
Take a peek at your own story by browsing our digital collection of Des Moines High School yearbooks. The library has digitized hundreds of yearbooks of all current high schools in Des Moines, as well as high schools now defunct, such as West High and Technical High. Find out about the past at dmpl.org/yearbooks.