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, September 27, 2011

New Education Statistics Released: Who Will Be Left Behind in 2020

Late last week President Obama announced significant changes to No Child Left Behind – the federal education reform statute that requires all students be proficient in math and reading by 2014. The changes will provide states with more autonomy to oversee their own educational improvement efforts. As the New York Times reported, those states that adopt higher educational standards, address problems at their lowest-performing schools and overhaul teacher evaluation procedures can apply for waivers of some key provisions of the law – including the 2014 proficiency deadline.

Will those changes have a significant impact on the performance of the nation’s schools and students? Time will tell. A recently released compilation of federal statistics does provide some insight into what changes the nation’s public education system might see over the course of the next decade.

The National Center for Education Statistics recently released “Projections of Education Statistics to 2020”. That report includes state-by-state data on projections of public elementary and secondary enrollment and public high school graduates to the year 2020. Users can browse through the document or download it as a PDF. Among the information you will find are statistics relating to school enrollment, student-teacher ratios, per-pupil expenditures and number of high school graduates.

The No Child Left Behind logo that appears above left comes from the House Committee on Education in the Workforce.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

As the hour of Davis execution nears, calls for clemency grow louder.

The scheduled execution of Georgia death row inmate Troy Davis is just hours away as I write this. As the appointed time of 7 p.m. approaches, protests are mounting and calls for clemency are growing louder here in the United States and around the globe.

Davis, 42, was convicted of the 1989 killing of off-duty police officer Mark MacPhail. Representatives of the NAACP, Amnesty International, along with Pope Benedict XVI and former President Jimmy Carter are among those who have called for a halt to the execution of Davis. Davis has steadfastly maintained his innocence and his conviction came despite a lack of physical evidence and the failure to find the murder weapon. In addition, a key witness subsequently recanted his testimony. The murdered police officer's family members maintain that prosecutors had the right man and Davis is not innocent.

Is Georgia planning to execute an innocent man? I don’t know the answer to that question. I do know that there have been instances where inmates under the sentence of death have been exonerated due to DNA evidence. The Innocence Project maintains a searchable database of such individuals. Established in 1992at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University, The Innocence Project lists its mission as “nothing less than to free the staggering numbers of innocent people who remain incarcerated.”

The National Criminal Justice Reference Service also provides some numbers that give one pause. In addition to statistics about the demographic characteristics of death row inmates, the average elapsed time between sentencing and execution and the method of execution in individual states the agency also provides data about the number of people who have been removed from the list. Why were they removed: Some were executed, some died of natural causes while on death row, some had their sentences commuted and still others were exonerated.

Perhaps the most chilling resource I discovered was a list maintained by the Death Penalty Information Center, a non-profit organization established in 1990 to provide the media and the public with analysis and information on issues concerning capital punishment. They maintain a list of the "Executed but Possibly Innocent" that details the case against the individuals, their conviction, and execution. It also provides links to court documents, journal articles and media reports related to those cases.

The above photo of Troy Davis comes from Amnesty International.

Monday, September 19, 2011

JSTOR's Early Journal Content: a rich source of historical material

When I introduce freshman history students to our electronic resources, I suggest they consider using the JSTOR database as both a primary and a secondary source finder. Now, everyone – even those without subscription access to JSTOR – can access a wealth of material dating back well before 1870.

Earlier this month JSTOR officials announced that journal content in JSTOR published before 1923 in the United States and prior to 1870 outside the U.S. is available to all, for free.  The “Early Journal Content” accounts for about 6 percent of total JSTOR content and editorials, reviews and scholarly articles on the arts and humanities, economic s and politics, math and other sciences.
So why should primary source hunters care about this development? Such access can provide student researchers with insight into what scholars and scientists of the time were thinking and writing about particular topics.
One recent class of history students was studying 1893’s World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. That World’s Fair, held to commemorate the 400th anniversary or Columbus’s discovery of the New World brought more than 27 million people to the Windy City.  The toured the fair’s 600 cares, visited the 200 buildings erected for its six month run and marveled at the man- made lagoons and canals. Certainly, some practical preparations had to be made for such a mass influx of tourists
Browsing through JSTOR, I came across and 1893 article from Science magazine titled “Disposal of Waste at the World's Columbian Exposition”. The details in that piece provide an interesting historical take on wastewater treatment projects.
That might not be a project that interests you, but whatever your focus, browse through JSTOR’s Early Journal Content. You might be pleasantly surprised at what you’ll find.
The above photograph of the World’s Columbian Exposition comes from the Library of Congress.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Visual Archives of the 9/11 Attacks

This weekend, the Associated Press published an interesting article about the Internet Archive’s September 11 video archive. That collection shows how the day’s horrific events unfolded from the perspective on international news broadcasters. Initial confusion over an “accident” at the World Trade Center evolves into fear as the scope of the attacks broadens. Horror and disbelief creep into the voice of news anchors as the magnitude of the losses becomes apparent.

The Internet Archive was founded in California in 1996. It aims to offer include offering permanent access for researchers, historians, scholars, people with disabilities, and the general public to digitized historical collections.

In addition to the September 11 video archive, it’s offerings include The Wayback Machine, an archive of web pages. By using the Wayback Machine to search different news sites for Sept. 11, 2001, users can get a glimpse of the hypertext archive of the attack on America.

The photo above, which depicts a memorial left at the Pentagon crash site, comes from the Library of Congress’s September 11, 2001 Documentary Project.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

National Jukebox: Early 20th-Century Recordings Streamed to your Computer

On May 18, 1921, the Steamship Wheaton arrived in Hoboken, N.J. with hallowed cargo in its hold – the bodies of 5212 American war dead, being returned to the United States from Cherbourg and Antwerp as part of a Congressional plan to bring the fallen home. Several days after the Wheaton’s arrival, President Warren G. Harding retired to the White House study and recorded remarks to the nation about the return of those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

His words can be heard on the National Jukebox, a new initiative from the Library of Congress. The Library of Congress presents the National Jukebox, which makes historical sound recordings available in streaming format to the public free of charge.

The Collection, which continues to grow, currently contains more than 10,000 recordings made between 1901 and 1925. Those audio files include pop music, comedy skits, literary readings, political speeches and more. Visitors to the National Jukebox can search recordings by artist and genre or choose to browse through the collection.

The photo above of President Harding comes from the Library of Congress.