Friday, April 3, 2009

Goodbye Library?

Randall Stephens

Can we imagine a day when history students and their teachers/professors no longer need to step foot in a library? With so many resources available on-line—newspapers, diaries, academic journals, medieval manuscripts, books… ad infinitum—does that now change the role of actual libraries? Students can access so much on the Web that they can craft very good research papers without ever leaving their dorm rooms. I’m a real fan of actual browsing within the four walls of a library, and there are certain things about a physical space and the people who populate it that can never be replaced. I pose this question more as something to consider rather than as some kind of manifesto/prophecy.


Here are just a few of the terrific sites that contain virtual mountains of digitized material:

Perseus Digital Library
“Our larger mission is to make the full record of humanity - linguistic sources, physical artifacts, historical spaces - as intellectually accessible as possible to every human being, regardless of linguistic or cultural background. . . . Perseus has a particular focus upon the Greco-Roman world and upon classical Greek and Latin, but the larger mission provides the distant, but fixed star by which we have charted our path for over two decades.”

The British Library Catalog of Illuminated Manuscripts
“Use this website to find and view descriptions and images of medieval and Renaissance manuscripts in the British Library, one of the richest collections in the world.”

Google Books
Using the full view feature, browsers have access to countless books in multiple languages published from the 16th century to 1922.

Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers
“This site allows you to search and view newspaper pages from 1880-1910 and find information about American newspapers published between 1690-present.”

America’s Historical Newspapers
“This growing collection of fully searchable historical American and Hispanic American newspapers is the most extensive resource of its kind. With nearly 2,000 titles from all 50 states, America’s Historical Newspapers provides an unparalleled record of the topics, people, issues and events that have shaped America for nearly three centuries.”

America's Historical Books, Broadsides and More
“Comprehensive and authoritative collections of books, pamphlets, broadsides and pieces of ephemera printed between 1639 and 1900…”

Project Muse
“Project MUSE offers full text, affordable access to current content from prestigious humanities and social sciences journals.”

The Library of Congress: American Memory Project
“American Memory provides free and open access through the Internet to written and spoken words, sound recordings, still and moving images, prints, maps, and sheet music that document the American experience.”

Making of America
“Making of America (MoA) is a digital library of primary sources in American social history from the antebellum period through reconstruction. The collection is particularly strong in the subject areas of education, psychology, American history, sociology, religion, and science and technology. The collection currently contains approximately 10,000 books and 50,000 journal articles with 19th century imprints.”

No comments: