From the start, the concept of bringing together Memphis history enthusiasts (and fanatics like me) and spotlighting their talents has been a central idea of StoryBoard Memphis. I’ve talked to many of you out there. And many I have talked to have never heard of some fine pursuits that are available at a few clicks and searches. Well it’s time you’ve learned something:
As perhaps never before, today’s Memphis is full of great storytellers.
They aren’t always available in traditional print. They won’t necessarily be found in books. Their names and stories may not be archived at the library.
Their work lives online. They use WordPress or Google’s Blogger, Intagram and Facebook. From this online jungle has emerged in recent years a virtual neighborhood, of unofficial historians from zip code to zip code sharing their Memphis stories. Most here would agree on a very short list of local legends who serve as Memphis’ official historians. But there are dozens of others who in their own capacities make sizable contributions to the telling of Memphis history.
They include local writers, bloggers, and film-makers; neighborhood leaders, retirees, former firemen, and teachers; photographers, painters, and sketch artists. A Film Row resident whose granddad piloted a riverboat; an owner of a famous Downtown hotel; an architect and a retired chairperson; even a local antique dealer: they are all passionate about Memphis history. They share their passions through their work, or they tell their stories on blogs and websites, through their photographs, through their artwork.
It has become a hobby for many. For others a vocation and a calling. For still others a business or a nonprofit. There are historical tidbits in The Commercial Appeal, The Memphis Daily News and the digital magazine High Ground News. For the serious history hobbyists there are the FaceBook pages Memphis In Pictures, You’re probably from Memphis if …, and Historic Memphis to name a few. Other serious hobbyists use Instagram accounts to share their perspective of Memphis history. Among others, there are the vintage photos at @memphistory; Memphis Heritage occasionally posts photos and stories at @Memphis_heritage ; and there is local school teacher Julie McCullough’s wonderful photographic and informational chronicle of historic, mostly Mid-South homes at her @thisplaceinhistory account.
And then there are the gals at Memphis Type History.
“Memphis Type History is a project by Caitlin Horton and Rebecca Phillips,” says their website. “We collect stories and search out the rumor and lore behind Memphis’ greatest signs and best historical places. This is Memphis as Memphians know it.”
Caitlin and Rebecca, sometimes with the help of other collaborators, have captured story after story since 2013, through Instagram (@memphistypehistory ), FaceBook and their Memphis Type History website. This year they also started a podcast.
Their stories and podcasts are fun and full of nostalgia, and have featured everything from the well-known – the Peabody Hotel, Beale Street, and Elmwood Cemetery – to the little-known – tales of Barboro Alley, the Fred P. Gattas Co. Catalog, and Maywood Beach. They have held discussions on extinct Memphis malls and drive-ins, and have interviewed prominent Memphians on the histories of Overton Square and Silky O’Sullivan’s to name just a few.
The “type” in Memphis Type History comes from their shared fascination with local signs, graffiti and typography, and the history behind the signs from the people to the buildings housing them.
In 2013 they also collaborated on a beautiful book, aptly titled Memphis Type History, Signs and Stories From Just Around the Corner. Approached by the UK-based The History Press almost five years ago, Caitlin and Rebecca compiled multiple resources and interviews to put together one of the best, most entertaining books you’ll ever find on the histories of some of Memphis’ more iconic landmarks. It was published in 2014. You can find it on their website or here at Burke’s Books.
Meanwhile, their podcasts and their story compilations continue, and can be found on their website or through their Instagram account.
If you love Memphis history and count yourselves amongst those who can’t get enough of it, you owe it to yourself to check them out. A good place to start would be right here, at Memphis Type History. Enjoy. Tell them StoryBoard Memphis sent you.