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.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Turn the pages of these rare, historic texts

I loved Geraldine Brooks’ People of the Book, a novel that traces a rare manuscript’s centuries-long journey from its creation Spain to its discovery in war-torn Sarajevo. The novel is based on the true story of the Sarajevo Haggadah, which today is on display at the National Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina in Sarajevo. Recently I happened upon a fascinating digital collection that gave me more insight into the Haggadah, the Jewish text that contains the story of Exodus and the Passover Seder ritual.

The British Library’s Turning the Pages online gallery allows users to leaf through the pages of great books. Those works include the first atlas of Europe, Jane Austen’s early work and William Blake’s notebook, to name just a few selections. Visit that collection and you’ll also be able to peruse the Golden Haggadah. In addition to being able to digitally leaf through the pages of that manuscript, the gallery's features allow you to magnify the images, listen to commentary about the resource and read background material about that particular book. Reading through the available material, I learned the Golden Haggadah was likely brought to Italy by Jews fleeing Spain in the late 1400s. The volume remained in Italy until it was acquired by the British Museum.

The image above is a facsimile of the Sarajevo Haggadah and comes from the online exhibit “You Shall Tell Your Children: The Passover Haggadah in the Yale University Library Collections.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Pentagon Protest 43 Years Later

On this day in 1967, some 100,000 people marched on the Pentagon to protest the Vietnam War. There is a wealth of primary source available related to that action. Items can be found at the National Archives and Records Administration, at the website of the Federal Justice Department’s U.S. Marshall’s Service, and the Vietnam Center and Archive at Texas Tech University. Another rich source of material related to the protest is YouTube. On that site, a search for “pentagon protest 1967” yields a number of videos – including newsreels – that depict what happened when the protest moved from the Lincoln Memorial to the Pentagon. The picture above, taken at the Pentagon that day, is from the National Archives.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Sands that Inspired The Poet of the Dunes

Columbus Day weekend brought stunning weather to Cape Cod and my family took full advantage, heading off on a road trip to the Lower Cape. We hiked some trails in Truro, stopped at Ballston Beach, and eventually made our way to the Province Lands visitor’s center in Provincetown.
There, I was intrigued by a display about Harry Kemp, the so-called “Poet of the Dunes” and a longtime resident of the town’s dune shacks. At home, I did some research about Harry and learned he was talented rake. In addition to being known as the man who stole Upton Sinclair’s wife, he was also recognized as a skilled writer and actor who counted some of the early 20th century’s artistic elite as his friends and collaborators.

One of those individuals was Eugene O’Neill. Back in the summer of 1916, Mr. Kemp and other members of the Provincetown Players staged the playwright’s Bound East for Cardiff. More about that show and the history of the Provincetown Players can be found in the University of Virginia’s digital collection: In the Brilliancy of the Footlights: Creating America’s Theatre. That collection includes copies of playbills from Provincetown Players’ productions and a photograph of the Bound East for Cardiff cast.

Kemp’s own work, Tramping on Life, an Autobiographical Narrative is available full text from Google Books and the Internet Archive, as are a number of his poetry collections. Kemp died in a Provincetown artist’s shack in the summer 1960.

The image at top shows Provincetown’s Province Lands on Sunday afternoon. The image at left is  Harry Kemp’s portrait from his autobiography. At left is Tasha Shack, one of the Provincetown dune shacks Kemp called home.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Cranberries Cured Those Scurvy Sailors

While driving to work in a driving rainstorm yesterday, I passed a cranberry bog. Despite the monsoon-like conditions, the bog-workers were laboring hard, harvesting the tart fruit. According to the Cape Cod Cranberry Growers Association, the cranberry (referred to as craneberries by the English settlers) was a staple on whaling ships as the red berries were known to fight scurvy – a disease caused by vitamin C deficiency and characterized by lethargy, anemia, gum disease and skin  hemorrhages.
 Google Books has a wealth of materials that serve as primary source references on the topic of scurvy and whaling voyages. For example, consider what William Kennedy described in The Second Voyage of the Prince Albert. That monograph, written in 1853, details the hardships endured on an Arctic expedition.
“Within the last few days we had suffered so severely from scurvy, which had rendered us morbidly sensitive to cold and bodily fatigue, that although now only a day’s journey from Whaler Point, we gladly availed ourselves of the opportunity which the accidental discovery of the depot afforded, to take a day or two’s rest before proceeding further….we remained at Whaler Point until the 27th, making a free use of the lime juice, cranberries, vegetables, and, in fact of every anti scorbutic we found…”
Some additional repositories for digitized materials related to whaling voyages are The New Bedford Whaling Museum, The National Maritime Digital Library and the Nantucket Historical Association.
The above image of the Massachusetts cranberry harvest comes from the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Winners and losers in mid-term elections past

Election season is heating up, judging by the number of political science students posing questions about various Congressional races. With the mid-term elections just a month away, you might want to check out The American Presidency Project’s excellent graphic detailing the number of Congressional seats lost or gained by the President’s party during mid-term elections. The chart includes information about the President, his political party, the President’s lame duck status, their job approval rating in the months leading to the election and the number of House and Senate seats lost during the mid-term elections. The data used to create the chart was culled from a number of sources,  including  the Gallup Poll and Vital Statistics on the Presidency.

 The American Presidency Project contains a wealth of primary source and statistical material spanning the administration of George Washington to Barack Obama. The editorial cartoon shown above depicts the fall-out from the 1922 mid-term elections. That image comes from the National Archives online exhibit: Running for Office: Candidates, Campaigns, and the Cartoons of Clifford Berryman.