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.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Marking the 50th Anniversary of the Kennedy-Nixon Debates

50 years ago this week, Massachusetts Senator John F. Kennedy squared off against Vice President Richard M. Nixon in the first-ever general election presidential debate. To mark that anniversary, the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum has partnered with YouTube to make the full, unabridged debate available for viewing. The photo at right of the debate is a video still from the Internet Archive.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Pandemic of 1918-1919

One of the websites I visit most every day is HISTORY.COM’s This Day in History. Perusing that site this morning, I learned that on this day in 1918 a parade in Philadelphia drew crowds to the city and helped spread the influenza virus throughout the region. The pandemic of 1918-1919 sickened people around the globe. When it was over, some 30 million people worldwide had perished after contracting the highly contagious virus.

The National Archives has put together and impressive array of digitized documents in their online collection, The Deadly Virus: The Influenza Epidemic of 1918. There, you’ll find photographs, telegrams, letters, and government documents. Additionally, The United States Department of Health and Human Services had compiled a rich collection of digital resources related to the outbreak titled The Great Pandemic: The United States in 1918-1919. Like the National Archives collection, it contains photographs, letters, and other documents.

The photo above of a New York City letter carrier was taken in October of 1918 and comes from the National Archives.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Happy Constitution Day!

On this day in 1787, 39 delegates signed the final draft of the Constitution. The document would then be sent on to the states and ratified the following year. In order to mark the occasion, I thought I’d highlight a few digital collections featuring Constitution materials. Our Documents: 100 Milestone Documents from the National Archives features images of the Constitution (high resolution PDFs are available for download) and the transcribed text of the document. The Avalon Project at Yale University features The American Constitution – A Documentary Record. That collection provides access to primary source materials dealing with the U.S. Constitution. Those documents are divided into several broad categories including: revolution and independence, the Constitutional Convention and the ratification of the Constitution and the formation of the government. Finally, the Library of Congress’s Thomas site, the online home of federal legislative information, features a variety of primary source documents as well as resources for teachers. The image above is Signing of the Constitution by Howard Chandler Christy.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Fatal Bear Attack in New Hampshire prompts search

This summer I’ve been on a frustrating search for a source describing the last fatal, unprovoked black bear attack in New Hampshire . “Why”, you ask? Well, back in July, I was vacationing with the family on New Hampshire’s Tuftonboro Neck. I went for a jog one morning, rounded a bend in the dirt road and came upon what I initially thought was a very large dog. I got a tad closer and realized that enormous dog was actually a black bear. The bear lumbered off into the woods toward Lake Winnipesaukee. I took off in the other direction. After I told my family about the encounter, my brother-in-law (a Granite State resident) said, "Don’t worry; the state’s last fatal bear attack happened way back in the 1700s."

 Being a skeptic, I wanted proof. Being a reference librarian, I wanted a primary source that provided me with all the details. While I could find plenty of contemporary references to New Hampshire’s last fatal bear attack occurring in 1784, I couldn’t find any primary source describing the incident. Frustrating! It seemed to be one of those pieces of information I describe to students I work with as “very gettable”.

And it was, indeed, gettable. I just needed some uninterrupted search time. When I returned to work from summer break this week, I spent some time on this quest. I looked in various Library of Congress resources, perused collections of New Hampshire historical material, poked around in the Internet Archive and browsed historical newspapers. My search ultimately ended with Google books. There, a simple search for bear attack new hampshire 1784 brought me to a digitized copy of the second edition of Jeremy Belknap’s The History of New Hampshire: comprehending the events of one complete century and seventy-five years from the discovery of the River Pascataqua to the year one thousand seven hundred and ninety. That monograph contained the following account of the grisly attack on an 8-year old Moultonborough boy in the summer of 1784.

A boy of eight years old, son of a Mr. Leach, was sent to a pasture toward the close of the day, to put out a horse and bring home the cows. His father being in a neighbouring field, heard a cry of distress, and running to the fence, saw his child lying on the ground and a bear standing by him. He seized a stake, and crept along, with a view to get between the bear and the child . The bear took the child by the throat and drew him into the bushes. The father pursued till he came up and, aiming a stroke at the bear, the stake broke in his hand; and the bear, leaving his prey, turned upon the parent, who, in the anguish of his soul, was obliged to retreat and call for help. Before any sufficient help could be obtained, the evening was so far advanced, that a search was impracticable. The night was passed by the family in the utmost distress. The neighbours assembled and, at break of day, renewed the pursuit. The child's hat, and the bridle, which he had dropped, were found, and they tracked his blood about forty rods, when they discovered the mangled corpse. The throat was torn and one thigh devoured.

The photo of the black bear, above at top, comes from the University of New Hampshire’s Cooperative Extension. The map of New Hampshire’s Lake Winnipesaukee, showing the proximity of Moultonborough to Tuftonboro, comes from New Hampshire’s Lakes Region Association.

Back at the reference desk and on the hunt for primary sources

After a wonderful summer on Cape Cod, I’ve returned to the reference desk at Stonehill College. I’m in the process of weeding through the lists of primary source sites I’ve collected over the summer and will be adding new bookmarks to my delicious site as well as featuring some of those collections on my Primarily History blog. Given that today is the 65th anniversary of VJ day, I’ll direct you to Japan Capitulates – a digital collection from the Naval History and Heritage Command. The site provides access to images and other material from the U.S. Department of the Navy's Naval Historical Center related to Japan's surrender to the Allies in World War II. The photo above  - which shows Japanese representatives on board USS Missouri during the surrender ceremonies, 2 September 1945 - is part of that collection.