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, July 20, 2010

Palin manufactures word, likens herself to Shakespeare: Check out "digipository" of Bard's work

Sarah Palin coined a new term earlier this week when, in a tweet addressed to “Ground Zero Mosque supporters”, she called on “Peaceful Muslims” to “pls. refudiate” a development proposed for lower Manhattan.  Her comments referred to a planned 13-story project that will house a mosque, gymnasium and a community center.

Her choice of words was met with harsh criticism from around the blogosphere, on the airwaves and in print. While many commentators took aim at her use of the term “Peaceful Muslims”,  others took her to task for manufacturing the word “refudiate”. What did she mean? Refute? Repudiate?

In response to those comments, the former Governor of Alaska issued another tweet, likening her creative use of language to that of the Bard’s.

"'Refudiate,' 'misunderestimate,' 'wee-wee'd up.' English is a living language. Shakespeare liked to coin new words too. Got to celebrate it!"
Twitter users did celebrate. Under the hash tag #ShakesPalin they’ve created a collection of phrases combining Shakespeare’s work with Palin –speak. One example:

“But soft, what light from yonder window breaks? It is the East, and I can see Russia from my front porch.”
Okay, enough of the politics. If you want to read what Shakespeare wrote, check out the Shakespeare Quartos Archive. That site provides access to reproductions of least one copy of every edition of William Shakespeare’s plays printed in quarto before the theatres closed in 1642. The digital repository – a digipository if you will – is a collaborative effort between educational institutions and government agencies in the United States and in the United Kingdom.

The photo of Sarah Palin comes from

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

New Hampshire's Henry Wilson Highway - My Memory Lane

I’m off-Cape, vacationing in New Hampshire with the family. As we headed up Route 11 toward the Lakes Region earlier this week, we passed the turn-off to Route 153 in Farmington. Also known as the Henry Wilson Highway, that rural route is my memory lane.

Librarianship is my second career. Before I decided to return to school and earn my MLS, I worked as a newspaper reporter. My first post-college job was at Foster’s Daily Democrat – a small Granite State daily. My beat had me reporting on several small communities, including Farmington.

Farmington’s claim to fame is that it is the birthplace of Henry Wilson, who served as Ulysses S. Grant’s vice president. Henry was actually born Jeremiah Jones Colbath. His family struggled to subsist. He worked on a farm for a time and when he was able he legally changed his name, got out of Farmington and moved to Massachusetts where his political career began.

Although Henry Wilson didn’t seem to be particularly attached to Farmington, Farmington was attached to Henry. While at Foster's, when the snow was deep on the ground, I’d trudge through the drifts at Farmington Country Club to report on the snow-shoe races and snow-man making competitions that were part of the Henry Wilson Winter Carnival. During my tenure at Foster’s, a journalist-colleague started an organization dubbed WOOF – Wilson Out of Obscurity Forthwith. Guess that didn’t work out the way its founder had hoped.

Still, there’s plenty of primary source material about Henry to be found out there. The Library of Congress’s American Memory Project contains a wealth of material from his political career, including letters written to President Lincoln during Wilson’s tenure in the Senate and documentation from his term as vice president. The American Presidency Project contains some additional material about Wilson, including President Grant’s Nov. 22, 1875 announcement that Wilson had died. The Vice President passed away in the Capitol Building after suffering a stroke. The picture of Wilson shown at left comes from

Walking the sands of First Encounter Beach

Last week we headed down to Coast Guard Beach in Eastham to relax on my favorite stretch of sand. After a lovely day, we packed up around dinner time, stopped at a clam shack for some supper and headed for home. Along the way we took a short detour over to the bay side of the Cape and visited Eastham’s First Encounter Beach –a fitting name. It was there in 1620 that members of the Mayflower expedition, searching for an appropriate site for their settlement, first encountered native Americans – members of the Nauset Tribe.

A detailed description of that not-so-cordial first encounter can be found in Mourt’s Relation: a Journal of the Pilgrims at Plymouth 1622.

"By their noise we could not guess that they were less than thirty or forty, though some thought that they were many more. Yet in the dark of the morning we could not so well discern them among the trees, as they could see us by our fireside. We took up eighteen of their arrows which we have sent to England by Master Jones, some whereof were headed with brass, others with harts' horn, and others with eagles' claws. Many more no doubt were shot, for these we found were almost covered with leaves; yet, by the especial providence of God, none of them either hit or hurt us though many came close by us and on every side of us, and some coats which hung up in our barricade were shot through and through.

So after we had given God thanks for our deliverance, we took our shallop and went on our journey, and called this place, The First Encounter."
After leaving the area of First Encounter, the Mayflower continued along the coast, eventually landing at Plymouth. The  full text of Mourt’s Relation, along with a host of other primary source materials relating to Plymouth Colony, can be found at The Plymouth Colony Archive Project at the University of Virginia. That project is a collection of fully searchable texts. Among those texts are; court records, colony laws, seventeenth century journals and memoirs, probate inventories, wills, town plans, maps, and fort plans; research and seminar analyses of numerous topics; biographical profiles of selected colonists; and architectural, archaeological and material culture studies.

The drawing depicting the First Encounter comes from King Philip, by John S. C. (John Stevens Cabot) Abbott. Written in the mid-19th century, that book is available full-text from Project Gutenberg.

Monday, July 12, 2010

RIP Nobel Laureates

I haven’t spent too much time blogging lately. Instead, I’ve been enjoying all of what the summer has to offer here on Cape Cod. I think there’s no better way to spend a beautiful July morning than cycling along the roads of Falmouth. One of my favorite routes takes me by the spectacular scenery near Nobska Light and past the Church of the Messiah in Woods Hole.

A scientist-friend once told me that church’s cemetery is the final resting place of more Nobel Prize-winners than any other cemetery in the world. It doesn’t seem like such a far-fetched possibility, what with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and the Marine Biological Laboratory just a short distance from the church yard.

While I could find a few references to that claim in tourism literature, I could find no scholarly source to independently confirm it. However, while searching for confirmation I did make another find. After spending quite a bit of time on the Nobel Prize website,  I came to view it as a great repository of primary source material. In addition to statistical data about the awards, the site also provides autobiographical essays by the laureates, the full text of their Nobel lecture and photographs. The photo above of the Church of the Messiah comes from the Episcopal Church.