As a college librarian, I often hear stressed-out students searching for primary sources say, "I'll take anything." Don't settle for just anything. There is a treasury of primary source material available electronically. Peruse my selection of 200-plus primary source sites by conducting a keyword search, exploring the tag cloud at left, or browsing by historical era. You can also visit my Delicious and Diigo sites to review my bookmarks. Here's hoping you find what you're looking for.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Someone checked out the book you need? Don't stress.

Spring break is over and the semester’s end nears; research paper anxiety season is approaching. This is about the time freshmen history students show up at the reference desk looking for a copy of Salem-Village Witchcraft: a Documentary Record of Local Conflict in Colonial New England. I usually have to tell them they are out of luck. That item, along with other primary source materials in our collection dealing with the witchcraft trials in Salem, is particularly popular. No need to stress. An amazing collection of primary source documents is available at the University of Virginia’s Salem Witch Trials Documentary Archive and Transcription Project. There, you’ll find transcriptions of court records, record books from the Salem Village church and digitized historic maps of Massachusetts Bay Colony and Salem Village. So don’t worry if someone beat you to the stacks.
Above is a an image of the Trial of George Jacobs of Salem for Witchcraft, a painting by Thompkins Harrison Matteson. That image comes from the Library of Congress.

Friday, March 26, 2010

NITLE in New Orleans

I’m in New Orleans for the next couple of days attending the
NITLE Summit. I haven’t been to Louisiana in many years, and this is my first post-Katrina visit to this great city. Prior to my departure, while searching for material pertaining to the history of the city’s flood control planning, I turned to JSTOR. History students love JSTOR because they can find full text articles quickly. However, they don’t often tend to think of JSTOR as a primary-source-finder. It can do just that - very well. I played around with a variety of search terms – Mississippi River, Louisiana, New Orleans, levee, dike, Lake Ponchatrain, etc. I limited my search to the first half of the 20th century. And, I found some solid sources. For Example: The Plan for Flood Control of the Mississippi River in Its Alluvial Valley. Presented to the Secretary of War and by Him to Congress, published in 1928 in Volume 135 of the Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science. One snippet from that report reads:

To afford proper protection to New Orleans, with its population of nearly half a
million and property value of over a billion dollars, a special floodway
upstream from the city is essential.

The picture above of the post-Katrina flooding of New Orleans comes from NASA’s earth observatory.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Elvis enlists

One of my favorite sites for digitized primary source material is the National Archives and Records Administration . In keeping the popular “in this day in history" theme, I’ll have you know that back on March 24 of 1958, draftee Elvis Presley joined the Army. One of the pieces of Elvis documentation you can find on the National Archives website is the “Acknowledgement of Service Obligation” signed by Elvis 52 years ago today.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Invasion of the body snatchers

It makes me so happy when a student approaches the reference desk looking for help with a paper they're jazzed about. Such was the case when I met a student who was writing about the history of body-snatching in the United States during the 1800s. She enthusiastically described the lucrative practice of digging up graves and removing corpses from their coffins for sale to physicians, medical schools and others. We browsed through the New York Times for that time period and found a number of newspaper articles that described this practice in gruesome detail. I realize that not everyone seeking such info has access to resources such as The Historical New York Times or America's Historical Newspapers. For those folks, check out Chronicling America from the Library of Congress. This database allows you to search and view newspapers pages dating from 1880-1922. There, I found this little tidbit from Jan. 6, 1898 issue of The Valentine (Nebraska) Democrat:

Before the introduction of
this outer box it was comparatively
easy for the grave robber to make a
narrow excavation at the head of the
grave, lift the wooden lid over the glass
through which the face of the corpse
is seen, smash the glass, insert a body
hook under the chin and jerk the body
out of the grave. But now the whole
grave must be excavated and the lid
of the pine box unscrewed before the
coffin is accessible.

Neat stuff.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Sir Isaac Newton and the Philosopher's Stone

On this day in 1727, Sir Isaac Newton died in London . There is a wealth of material available electronically that relates to his contributions to science and mathematics. Look around, and you can also find information about his efforts to create the philosopher’s stone – a fabled substance believed to have the power to turn base metals into gold, cure ills and – perhaps – allow one to achieve immortality. In addition to being a mathematician, physicist and astronomer, Newton was an alchemist. The Chymistry of Isaac Newton gives visitors to the site access to transcriptions of Newton’s alchemical manuscripts including, among other things, his lab notebooks and indices to alchemical substances. The project is the work of William R. Newman, a professor of the History of Science at Indiana University and the IU Digital Library program.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

When in doubt, try the Statistical Abstract

A student came to the desk looking for scholarly journal articles about young voters' impact on the 2008 presidential election.He found some relevant items, but wanted more numbers. We found them in the Statistical Abstract of the United States: 2010. Right there in table 387 was just what he needed - the Democratic and Republican vote percentages for the 2004 and 2008 Presidential elections characterized by year of the voter's birth. This question (and answer) made me realize I've neglected to recommend this reference source to freshman history students as often as I could have.It's online, easy to search, and includes data dating back to 1878. So, history students, next time you're looking for historical data on the nation's population, labor force, crime, education or health, give it a look.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Images from Northern Ireland

On the eve of St. Patrick's day, I spent some time searching for some interesting sites related to Irish history. I came across the Claremont Colleges Digital Library's Murals of Northern Ireland site. This rich digital collection contains images of murals painted during The Troubles. The photos were snapped on both sides of the divide - in the Loyalist Shankill Road neighborhood and along the Republican Falls Road. These images of public political art provide insight into the sectarian messages imparted in Northern Ireland's neighborhoods during The Troubles.

How should you access these bookmarks?

As I continue to grapple with how to best display my bookmarks, I have a couple of suggestions for you to browse through them. You can simply peruse the tag cloud at left and click on those tags of interest to you. If you prefer, you can go directly to my delicious account to view all 130-plus bookmarks and their detailed annotations.

How should I organize all this material?

Soon after I started using declicious to bookmark primary source sites, I knew I had a problem. How could I best organize these bookmarks to make them easy for students to navigate? I still haven't come up with a satisfactory answer. To the left, you'll see the tag cloud for my bookmarks. Below the cloud, you'll find a list of my bookmarks and links to my delcious site. I'm toying with the idea of organizing my bookmarks by time period. However, the students I work with focus on a wide array of topics and time periods, so I'm not sure organization by time period will work. Suggestions?