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.

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.

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