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, November 30, 2010

Previously unknown Picasso works found: what treasures are in your garage?

I’m fascinated by the story of the retired French electrician who has reportedly been storing a treasure-trove of works by Picasso in a box in his garage. Pierre Le Guennec claims the artist gave him 271 pieces as a gift after Le Guennec worked on  Picasso’s homes in the south of France back in the early 1970s.

The cache, which is estimated to be worth at least $80 million, includes lithographs, cubist paintings, notebooks and a watercolor. Administrators of Picasso’s estate have filed a case for alleged illegal receipt of the art. The artist’s son, who has vouched for the works’ authenticity, claims his father never would have handed off such a collection and maintains he always signed and dated works given as gifts.

It will be an interesting story in the coming weeks in months. In the meantime, if you want additional information about the artist and his work, visit the Online Picasso Project. That digital repository, the creation Dr. Enrique Mallen a professor at Sam Houston State University in Texas, provides visitors with access to close to 20,000 catalogued artworks (including jpeg images of the pieces) as well as access to thousands of biographic entries, archived articles, artwork notes, artwork commentaries and other material.

The image above left of Picasso was taken by American photographer Irving Penn in 1957 and comes from the National Gallery of Art. The image at right shows one of the newly-discovered Picasso works and comes from the Associated Press.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

I have a bit of time before the turkey goes in the oven - ample opportunity to relect on what I'm most thankful for - a wonderful family, dear friends, good health, a job I love, and a welcoming home to return to at the end of the day. If you want to read the Pilgrim's first-hand accounts of  how and to what they have thanks, Plymouth Massachusetts' Pilgrim Hall Museum can provide them to you.

The image above is J.L.G. Ferris's early 20th century work, "First Thanksgiving". It comes from the Library of Congress's American Memory Project.

A wonderful holiday to all.

Monday, November 22, 2010

A look back at changes in the House leadership

Today’s New York Times The Caucus blog features a post discussing how incoming House Speaker, John A. Boehner, can best avoid becoming “branded in an unflattering way” as did his predecessors, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and former Speaker Newt Gingrich.

Hunting around for some information about the history of the speakership, I came across the historical collections of the Office of the Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives. Under the subject heading “Speaker of the House” you’ll find scores of articles, including one about Frederick A.C. Muhlenberg of Pennsylvania, the first Speaker of the House. First elected to the post on April 1, 1789, Muhlenberg would go on to serve two non-consecutive terms in that leadership role.

Articles provided by the U.S. Clerk’s office provide links to profile information for the Congresses under which the speakers served. Other links provide access to articles about important pieces of legislation considered during the speakers’ tenure.

The image above is taken from a portrait of Muhlenberg and comes from the collection of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Friday, November 19, 2010

UNLV's Nevada Test Site Oral History Project

Between 1951 and 1992 the United States conducted more than 1000 nuclear tests above and underneath the barren ground of southern Nevada. The Nuclear Test Site, a 1350-square mile plot of land located northwest of Las Vegas, employed upwards of 125,000 during the Cold War. Nuclear testing ceased there in 1992 with the implementation of a nuclear testing moratorium.

The operations at that Nevada Test Site facility are the subject of the University of Nevada Las Vegas’ Nevada Test Site Oral History Project. That initiative contains a collection of interviews with military personnel, scientists, laborers and protestors associated with the test site. The project was awarded the 2010 Public History Project Award from the National Council on Public History.

Other repositories of primary source materials related to the Nevada Test site include the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection and Los Alamos Laboratories. The environmental agency’s holdings include photographs of the test site, environment impact statements pertaining to the contamination resulting from the tests and National Cancer Institute studies on the health impacts of the tests on those living in surrounding areas. Los Alamos’ materials include photographs and additional historical material about the testing.

The image above left shows the Stokes test. Conducted in August, 1957, that explosion was detonated from a balloon. The image at right shows the Sedan crater which was created by the underground explosion of a 100 kiloton nuclear device in July, 1962. The resultant crater is 320 feet deep in 1280 feet in diameter. Both images come from the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

How to catch, peel, grill and eat snakes

Sometimes my train of thought gets derailed, as it did today. I was browsing through the list of winners of the National Council on Public History's Public History Project Award recipients and bookmarking those sites on Delicious.  While perusing Delicious, I started checking out who else had found these projects of interest. Eventually, I  found my way to the digital exhibit A is for Animals - a project of the Australian War Memorial.

I both fascinated and repelled by what I saw and read. The site, which was designed primarily with a young audience in mind, features photographs, videos and audio recordings that illustrate the varied roles of animals in war, from essential means of transport, to beloved mascots to troublesome pests.

The video of a RAAF jungle survival training camp in Queensland made me a bit squeamish. The black and white film shows a collection of soldiers, catching, cooking and rather reluctantly nibbling a very large snake.  That video is below.

This collection is a long way from what I originally started writing about - The Nevada Test Site Oral History Project. More on that tomorrow (hopefully).

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Patriotic lyricist wrote of cancer's torment, the anguish of love lost


Last week I came across an article announcing that the handwritten score of an alternative version of “America the Beautiful” was up for sale by a Cape Cod auction house. It was in 1893 that Falmouth, MA native Katharine Lee Bates wrote a poem that would become that beloved patriotic melody. Today, you can’t go too far in the seaside town without running across some kind of monument to Bates, such as the street sign that bears her name or the statue of her likeness on the public library lawn.

Before reading that article, I knew Bates was a lyricist. But I didn’t know she was an accomplished academic – a respected professor and esteemed author. Nor did I know that the poems she wrote in the wake of her partner's death from breast cancer would be such powerful examples of how words truly can convey profound loss. I also learned that those poems, such as "If You Could Come" , are today viewed by scholars as examples of some of the earliest American breast cancer narratives.

If You Could Come 
If You Could Come
My love, my love, if you could come once more
From your high place,
I would not question you for heavenly lore,
But, silent, take the comfort of your face.

I would not ask you if those golden spheres
In love rejoice,
If only our stained star hath sin and tears,
But fill my famished hearing with your voice.

One touch of you were worth a thousand creeds.
My wound is numb
Through toil-pressed, but all night long it bleeds
In aching dreams, and still you cannot come.

That poem is found in the collection Yellow Clover; A Book of Remembrance, published by Bates in 1922. That volume is dedicated to Katharine Coman, an economist, social reformer, fellow Wellesley professor and Bates’ partner of 25 years.

The photo of Bates, at left, comes from Wellesley College. The photo of Coman, at right, comes from the digitized copy of Yellow Clover, available at the Internet Archive.

Additional information about Bates can be found at The Songwriters Hall of Fame, and the Falmouth Historical Society.

NYT Focuses on Digital Humanities

This morning’s New York Times features an excellent article by Patricia Cohen on the digital humanities. In it, she explains how scholars are using new and emerging technological tools to enhance, and perhaps change, our understanding of topics in the humanities. The piece features the work of a number of researchers whose projects I intend add to my collection of digital humanities links available on this blog and at Delicious. Today’s piece promises to be the first in the series "Humanities 2.0: The Liberal Arts meet the Data Revolution". Looking forward to the next installment.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Documenting the American South: A Rich Repository of Digital Primary Sources

On Nov. 11, 1831, Nat Turner, the leader of a bloody slave revolt in Virginia, was hanged.

The insurrection that ultimately led to his execution began several months earlier with the massacre of Turner's slave-owner, Joseph Travis, along with Travis’s wife and children. Over the next two days, scores of whites were killed by Turner and his 50-or-so followers. Ultimately, the majority of the uprising’s participants were captured and executed, as were many other African Americans who were not part of the revolt. Many more African Americans were subjected to increasingly oppressive legislation that was enacted in the wake of the killings.

Turner escaped capture until October of that year and The Confessions of Nat Turner were released shortly thereafter. The confessions of Tuner have long been in question. They were produced by Thomas Gray, Turner’s court-appointed attorney who, in the face of financial trouble, stood to gain considerably from the confessions’ release.

You can read the full text of the confession at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Documenting the American South. In addition to the confession, that digital collection features a number of other primary sources dealing with the revolt, including letters from individuals commenting on the uprising and information about how the Legislature responded to it. Additionally, the collection features an historical essay titled "A Rebellion to Remember: The Legacy of Nat Turner".

The image above left is the cover page of The Confessions of Nat Turner and comes from Documenting the American South. The image at right is titled “Horrid Massacre in Virginia” and comes from the Print s and Lithographs Division of the Library of Congress.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Spalding Gray: The Art of the Monologue

Yesterday I came across an article in the New York Times about the University of Texas at Austin acquiring the Spalding Gray archives. I was a college student when I first saw Gray on the big screen in 1984’s The Killing Fields. That motion picture told the story of Dith Pran, a Cambodian photographer who managed to survive the horror inflicted upon his country by the Khmer Rouge regime. Gray played the U.S. Consul in Cambodia in that film and his experiences on the set became the subject of a one-man stage show. That show, in turn, was the basis for 1987’s Swimming to Cambodia. Gray died in 2004 of an apparent suicide.

The Spaulding Gray Collection, which will be housed at the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas Austin, features some 90 hand written performance notebooks, 100 private journals and hundreds of letters. It also includes a number of unpublished written works including short stories and poems as well as audio and VHS tapes of his performances.

In addition to the Spaulding Gray resources, The Harry Ransom Center also features papers of other writers including, David Mamet, Tom Stoppard, and Norman Mailer, among others.

The above photo of Spaulding Gray comes from the Library of Congress’s online exhibition A Century of Creativity: The MacDowell Colony 1907-2007.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

31 Years Ago: The Beginning of a 444-Day Crisis

On Nov. 4, 1979, Iranian militants stormed the United States Embassy in Tehran, taking more than 60 Americans hostage. The group would be held in captivity for the next 444 days by the followers of Muslim cleric Ayatollah Khomeini. Those followers demanded the return of the deposed Shah of Iran, who had fled the country in January of that year.

President Jimmy Carter, whose administration was plunged into crisis by the hostage situation, embarked on a course of patient diplomacy which eventually helped secure the hostages’ release. But it was the hostage crisis and Carter’s response to it, coupled with the concurrent energy crisis, that helped secure Ronald Reagan’s victory in the 1980 Presidential election.

The Jimmy Carter Library and Museum features an interesting digital collection of documents pertaining to the hostage crisis. Among those resources you’ll find a list of those held captive, those who escaped capture those servicemen who perished in Operation Eagle Claw, an aborted attempt to free the hostages. The collection also features the journal kept by captive Robert C. Ode and a link to National Archives holdings related to the failed rescue effort.

Also, the Central Intelligence Agency’s library features a detailed first-person account of the hostage crisis, written by William J. Daugherty who served in the CIA’s Directorate of Operations in Iran.

The photo at left comes from the CIA’s Center for the Study of Intelligence.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Did you?

After the polls close this evening, the ballots will be counted and, tomorrow, analysis of the 2010-mid-term-electionwill begin in earnest. For students weighing the fallout from Tuesday’s vote, there are a number of resources in a variety of digital collections that will help you as you break down the results and put them in historical perspective.

 The U.S. Senate’s Historical Office has published an interesting essay on the Mid-Term Revolution of 1958 that saw Senate Democrats gain 13 seats, the largest transfer from one party to another in Senate history. As mentioned previously in this blog, the American Presidency Project at the University of California, Santa Barbara features an excellent graphic depicting the number of House and Senate seats lost by the ruling party during mid-term elections. The U.S. Census Bureau provides interesting data about voters in the 1994 mid-term election.

 Finally, American Rhetoric, The Online Speech Bank, provides the full text and audio of Newt Gingrich’s speech as he assumed the Speaker of the House post as a result of that so-called Republic Revolution of 1994. (That digital repository is updated frequently.  If you’d like, you can also find Jon Stewart’s keynote address delivered at last weekend’s Rally to Restore Sanity.) And,  if you haven’t already, go vote.