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.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

An end to another academic year

"The sea-shore is a sort of neutral ground, a most advantageous point from which to contemplate this world."
                                         Henry David Thoreau
                                         "The Sea And The Desert" in Cape Cod

Another academic year has ended here at Stonehill College. I will be leaving my post at the reference desk for the summer. I'll return with the students in late August.

I am fortunate to be a Cape Codder and look forward to spending the next couple of months enjoying all this peninsula has to offer during the summer season. I'll continue to post to this blog during my summer break. Like Thoreau, I've always found the seashore a most advantageous point for contemplation.

For the full text of  the writings inspired by Thoreau's Cape Cod excursions, visit The Thoreau Society website. The above image of Thoreau comes from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts' Department of Conservation and Recreation. The picture below is of the beautiful Coast Guard beach in Eastham, Massachusetts. That photo comes from the National Park Service.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Homestead Act 148 years on

Searching for primary source materials can be an extraordinarily easy task when the Library of Congress does all the work for you. I view the library’s American Memory Project as a go-to-site for digitized primary source materials. However, the library’s collection of resources for researchers can, in some cases, provide one-stop-shopping for such images and documents. Take the Homestead Act, for example. Signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln 148 years ago today, that legislation was devised to provide small farmers with the opportunity to purchase public land at minimal cost. The act gave 160 acres of land to any applicant, both citizens and intended citizens, who was the head of a household and 21 years or older, provided that the person settled on the land for five years and then paid a small filing fee. Under the Library of Congress’s resources for researchers section, you’ll find web guides which feature primary documents in American History. Those web guides are organized by historical period and subdivided further by particular issues or events. Browse through the Homestead Act Guide and you will find links to digitized copies of the Congressional Globe, a periodical which published the floor debate that preceded the act’s passage. You’ll also find digitized copies of articles concerning the act that appeared in periodicals of the day, and a copy of a letter written by a Canadian citizen to President Lincoln, inquiring as to how he could take advantage of the act. The photo above comes from The National Archives and shows a family posing in their the wagon that served as their home and transportation during thieir homesteading journey.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Chronicling the mortal threats faced by modern journalists

The New York Times this week published a chilling piece about the dire threats faced by Russian journalists. In response to their articles exposing corruption, shining light on extortion and publicizing environmental threats, those newsmen and newswomen have suffered savage beatings, car bomb attacks and unwarranted arrests. The threats to Russian journalists are not new and have been well publicized. The 2006 assassination of Anna Politkovskaya, who wrote extensively and critically about the Chechen conflict, received worldwide attention. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, 811 journalists have been killed in the line of duty since 1992. That agency's website provides a database of journalists imprisoned while covering the story or killed on the job. The search interface allows you to explore incidents by year and geographic area. Additional resources allow you to analyze additional information such as the reporter's employer, their beat and the suspected political/criminal affiliation of their murderers. Additionally the site provides detailed statistical information about reporters who perished in the Iraq War and digital access to copies of protest letters written on behalf of imprisoned journalists. The pictures at right come from, the blog for the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International information Program. At top is Daniel Pearl, the Wall Street Journal reporter who was investigating shoe-bomber Richard Reid when he was kidnapped in Pakistan in January 2002. He was murdered by his captors and his death confirmed the following month. Below is Anna Politikovskaya.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Robin Hood: Merry Thief or Embattled Veteran?

Russell Crowe’s new version of Robin Hood opens in theaters across the country this weekend. This adaptation reportedly doesn’t depict Robin as a merry thief. Instead, he’s portrayed as a war-weary veteran who has recently returned from the Crusades, where he served as an archer in the army of King Richard the Lionheart. Personally, I’m not a big Russell Crowe fan and I favor the campy (and now cancelled) BBC Robin Hood Series over a Ridley Scott epic. If I want to gain some insight about what it was really like for a crusader fighting in the Holy Land, I’ll likely turn elsewhere, such as the Hanover Historical Texts Project. That project was launched by the History Department at Indiana’s Hanover College. The site features historical digitized texts that cover a period spanning from Ancient Greece and Rome to the 20th century. Its contents include some amazing materials such a letter that crusader Stephen, count of Blois and Chartres, wrote to his wife Adle in 1098. It reads in part :
Hastening with great joy to the aforesaid chief city of Antioch, we besieged it and very often had many conflicts there with the Turks; and seven times with the citizens of Antioch and with the innumerable troops coming to its aid, whom we rushed to meet, we fought with the fiercest courage, under the leadership of Christ. And in all these seven battles by the aid of the Lord God, we conquered and most assuredly killed an innumerable host of them. In those battles, indeed, and in very many attacks made upon the city, many of our brethren and followers were killed and their souls were borne to the joys of paradise.
The image above is titled The Crusaders arriving at Jerusalem. It is an illustration from Tasso's La Gerusalemme Liberata. and comes from The British Museum.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Kagan tapped to serve as 112th Supreme Court Justice

President Obama this morning nominated United States Solicitor General Elena Kagan to serve as the 112th Supreme Court Justice. Kagan, a former Harvard Law School Dean, will face confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee in the coming weeks. Then, her nomination will go before the full Senate. If her nomination gains approval, she will join Thurgood Marshall on the list of Solicitors General subsequently appointed to the nation’s highest court. Coincidentally, Ms. Kagan clerked for Justice Marshall in 1988. To learn more about the duties of the Solicitor General – the federal government’s chief appellate lawyer -  check out the Justice Department’s document outlining the history of the Solicitor’s General post. The photo of Ms. Kagan at left also comes from the Department of Justice.

Lena Horne, 92, champion for racial and social justice

Lena Horne, the legendary entertainer, died Sunday at the age of 92. Born in New York, she began her career on stage at Harlem’s Cotton Club. She would later go on to become a Hollywood star, a celebrated state actress, a renowned jazz singer and a champion for racial and social justice. Above right is a picture taken of Ms. Horne at the 1943 launching of the SS George Washington Carver. That image comes from the New York Public Library’s Digital Gallery. Below that is an image of Ms. Horne at the 1963 March on Washington. That photograph comes from the National Archives and Records Administration. Last February, the House of Representatives passed a resolution honoring her body of work and praising her for using her celebrity as a catalyst for change. You can read that resolution at Thomas, the Library of Congress’s site for digitized legislative information.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Obama's Supreme Court Short-List

President Obama has apparently narrowed the short-list of potential Supreme Court nominees to four. Federal Judges Diana Wood, Merrick Garland, Sidney Thomas, and Solicitor General Elena Kagan are all reportedly being considered to fill the vacancy on the nation's highest court created by the impending retirement of Justice John Paul Stevens. News outlets report that the President could make his selection early next week, thereby setting the stage for confirmation hearings this summer. Some of those same reports predict that President Obama’s nominee will face tough questioning before the Senate Judiciary Committee. To be sure, Supreme Court confirmation hearings before that panel have generated plenty of fireworks in the past. The texts of Supreme Court nomination hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee from 1971 to the present are available electronically through GPO Access. The picture at left of Robert Bork comes from the U.S. Senate. Bork, nominated for the Supreme Court by President Roand Reagan in 1987, faced stiff opposition. Ultimatley, his nomination was rejected by a 58-42 Senate vote.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

A Grim Anniversary: Remembering Kent State 40 Years Later

Forty years ago today, Ohio National Guardsmen opened fire on protesting students at Kent State University. When the shooting was over, four students were dead, one student was permanently paralyzed, and eight others were injured. In the wake of the shootings, the attention of the nation was focused on the Ohio campus. The shootings prompted the largest student strike in United States history and a change in public opinion about the Vietnam War. The photo above depicts the four students who were killed at Kent State – Allison Krause, Jeffrey Miller, Sandra Scheuer and William Schroeder. That image comes from Kent State University’s May 4 Collection. That collection contains many other photographs as well as news accounts, moving images, oral histories and documents related to the shootings and their aftermath.