Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Your Tax Dollars Are Not Completely Wasted

Some years ago, when history was still mostly paper, I chanced upon a series of books titled American Archives.  But here's a good description:
Beginning in 1837 the printer Peter Force, who also served as mayor of Washington, D.C., devoted sixteen years to collecting thousands of pamphlets, booklets, and newspaper articles pertaining to the "Origin, Settlement, and Progress of the Colonies in North America" from the Revolutionary Era in order to preserve them for future generations. He published them in a set of nine large volumes that he called the American Archives. By the late twentieth century Force's collection of materials from the years 1774-6 had become a valuable scholarly resource, as it contained the only surviving copies of many important documents. But while a number of large research libraries around the world held the American Archives in their collections, it remained an underused resource. Scholars and students alike struggled with Force's unwieldy index and complicated organization of the materials. In 2001 Northern Illinois University Libraries and Professor Allan Kulikoff of the University of Georgia received grant funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities to support the digitization of the American Archives and their presentation in a free-use World Wide Web site. This site will allow its users to use sophisticated search and indexing software to explore Force's volumes. Professor Kulikoff has also produced a thematic indexing scheme describing the contents of every individual text in the American Archives collection. Together, these tools will offer scholars, students, and lifetime learners with unprecedented new access to these important primary source materials from American history.
They have just made my life easier.   Reading these books on microfilm was frustrating.  I found paper copies at the University of Pennsylvania, but photocopying pages made me feel guilty because the bindings cracked as I copied pages.

1 comment:

James Gibson said...

same feeling I had when I began reading through: The Pictorial Field-Book of the War of 1812 by Lossing, Benson J. 1868, Scared the book would completely come apart as I was turning the pages. Today, many of the maps have been scanned and are available on the internet.