Cataloging and Indexing


Preserving a National Treasure: A Partnership with the Dartmouth College Library

Serial Set volumes at the Dartmouth College LibraryIn 2003, Readex began a special partnership with Dartmouth College Library. Readex wished to scan a number of specific maps and color illustrations for our definitive digital edition of the 14,000-volume U.S. Congressional Serial Set—the crown jewel of American government publications. The Serial Set, which contains the Reports, Documents and Journals of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, is an exceptional source of primary material on nearly two centuries of American history. To ensure the comprehensiveness of our digital edition, our initial goal was to borrow and scan these items located in the Dartmouth volumes.

Serial Set Team at the Dartmouth College LibraryIn 2005, this Dartmouth-Readex partnership expanded from the initial request to a landmark project to preserve the complete print set at the Dartmouth College Library. In addition to enabling Readex to offer researchers the most accurate and comprehensive digital edition available, this unique partnership brought several benefits to the Dartmouth College Library: the cleaning and repair of more than 13,800 volumes, including the critical repair of spines and thousands of fold-out maps; creation of detailed item records for every volume; and invaluable first-hand experience with a large-scale digitization project.

Preserving a National Treasure: A Partnership with the Dartmouth College Library

Now Complete! The Readex U.S. Congressional Serial Set, 1817-1994

From its first session, Congress concerned itself with the publication of its own proceedings.  By 1815, a definite set of publication types along with a schema for numbering volumes and publications had been established.  The challenge of finding references in those volumes became the pursuit of several different attempts to index the rapidly expanding body of material.

 

In 1844, Thomas F. Gordon proposed the creation of a set of indices which was presented to the House of Representatives on January 11, 1845 (28th Congress, 2d Session, H. Doc. 26).  He began his proposal with results from surveying members of Congress on the usefulness of the indices produced for the first 25 Congresses.  He then expanded on the deficiencies of the previous work, before describing his goal:

Now Complete! The Readex U.S. Congressional Serial Set, 1817-1994

The Benefits of Browsing: Comments from Erin Cassidy, Sam Houston State University

Erin Cassidy

We recently received a short note from Erin Cassidy, Assistant Professor, Web Services Librarian, and History and Foreign Languages Bibliographer in the Newton Gresham Library of Sam Houston State University.

Drawing on her experience providing library instruction to students, she offered these thoughts on the Readex interface, which we share here with her permission:

One of the most valuable features of the Readex interface is its entirely unique browsing capability. I often assist undergraduate students who aren’t yet sure of their exact research question or thesis, and many of whom are entirely new to the idea of conducting research with historical documents. It can be difficult for students in this situation to build precise searches, but the Readex tools for browsing by characteristics like subjects, genres, people, events, geography, and so forth provide them with a powerful alternative to searching.

The Benefits of Browsing: Comments from Erin Cassidy, Sam Houston State University

The Index of Virginia Printing: Building an Online Reference with Print and Digital Resources

Our Guest Blogger is David A. Rawson, Ph.D., Historian & Professor, Worcester, Massachusetts

How does a researcher handle dated reference works still in print and still widely used?

From the masthead of a Virginia newspaper

This has been a recurring challenge in my twenty years of research into Virginia's early printing trade. Historians of the Old Dominion have long repeated the assertions of their predecessors with a certain reverence for their closer proximity to the historical past, and so of their forebears' intrinsic authority. Names like Lyon G. Tyler, Earle Gregg Swem, William G. Stanard, and Lester J. Cappon carry considerable authority among Virginia's historians, just as those of Charles Evans, Clarence Brigham, Roger P. Bristol, and Winifred Gregory do among bibliographers of early American imprints and newspapers. Their works are magisterial efforts from a time when the now-common computerized collecting and sorting of bibliographic and biographic data was not just unknown, it was unfathomable.

Volumes from Charles Evans' American Bibliography

The Index of Virginia Printing: Building an Online Reference with Print and Digital Resources

Location, location, location!

Nothing says “home” quite like a map of Alaska and adjacent lands shown as Russian and British territory—with annotations in French! 

“Map showing Russian territory of Alaska and coastline of western Canada. Alaskan Boundary Tribunal” (1903). Source: U.S. Congressional Serial Set, Readex

Where would America be without maps? In cases where the United States purchased significant portions of its domain from other countries, the transactions would have been a hard sell without detailed maps showing boundaries, landmarks—and possibilities. Likewise for territory acquired in resolution of conflicts, maps were crucial in determining sovereignty and peaceable relations with potential adversaries. 

Consider the following map as a realtor might: Where would you put a fort? A port? Is the land timbered? Any navigable rivers? How’s the neighborhood? Can the previous owner offer clear title, or will there be a war? Will the financing come through? And after all that—is the acquisition constitutional? This is no place for buyer’s remorse!

Location, location, location!

A uniquely valuable archive of translated foreign materials

 

A uniquely valuable archive of translated foreign materials

Writing the David Ruggles Biography: Newspapers Help Complete the Portrait of a Radical Black Abolitionist

 [This article by Graham Russell Gao Hodges, George Dorland Langdon Jr. Professor of History and Africana & Latin American Studies, Colgate University first appeared in the February 2011 issue of The Readex Report.]

David Ruggles (1810-1849) was a brilliant, intrepid, multi-talented soul who devoted his time and health to “practical abolitionism.” This term, Ruggles argued, meant that abolitionists should not just philosophize about the day when slavery would end, but strive to help the everyday victims of human bondage. 

In Ruggles’ home city of New York, such assistance included blocking kidnappers who stole young black children from the streets under the pretense that they were fugitive slaves. It meant providing succor for self-emancipated slaves. Frederick Douglass arrived in New York on September 3, 1838, penniless, lonely, and frightened. He spent a night sleeping among the barrels on the docks of the harbor. A kind sailor took him to Ruggles’ house where he learned about anti-slavery activities, was married to his fiancé, and then was sent off to New Bedford, Massachusetts armed with a five-dollar bill and a letter of recommendation.

Writing the David Ruggles Biography: Newspapers Help Complete the Portrait of a Radical Black Abolitionist

Flashbacks: Filling in the Blanks (with the Seattle Times historical archive)

Maybe you missed it, or perhaps you weren’t yet born. But imagine for just a moment that you’d made the trip from Seattle, Washington, to Max Yasgur’s Bethel, New York, farm in the late summer of 1969. You were one of the half-million people attending the Woodstock Music and Art Fair. One of your traveling companions embarked on the trip to protest the war in Vietnam. Another tagged along for the three-day party. You however came for the music. And moreover, you’d endured three hungry days of rain, long Porta-John lines, and National Guard rations for this singular moment. The opening riff to Jimi Hendrix’s “Message to Love” brings you out of your tent, and onto your feet. He’s your hometown hero. His white Fender Stratocaster, manufactured for a right-handed player, is strung upside-down for his deft left-handed manipulation. He’s working the fret-board furiously with long, spindly fingers. And just then, you flash back.

From The Seattle Sunday Times (01-25-1959). Click to open full article in PDF.

Flashbacks: Filling in the Blanks (with the Seattle Times historical archive)

Searching for Ancient Dead in the Modern Age

Our guest blogger today is SJ Wolfe, Senior Cataloguer at the American Antiquarian Society and Independent Mummyologist 

SJ Wolfe and 19th-century mummy Padihershef

When I began my project ten years ago I was told I would find about 350 mummies. After looking through literally thousands of digital newspaper articles and recording the finds in my own database, I am pleased to report that as of October 2010 I have found 1,534 mummy-related articles representing about 850 individuals. Many of these mummies are mentioned in passing and would not have been found without America's Historical Newspapers. As more titles get digitized, I discover not only more information about mummies I have already identified, but also new individuals.

Searching for Ancient Dead in the Modern Age

The United Nations as Teacher

Suppose there were an information source from which you could learn practically everything about how the world’s 191 countries operate?  What makes these global citizens tick?  Why do they do what they do?

Why, for instance, did Saddam Hussein invade Kuwait in the first place?  And why did some military experts and historians compare that invasion to Hitler’s conquest of Czechoslovakia in 1938?  How did the 1994 civil war in Rwanda result in the massacre of half a million people?  What forces keep the Middle East in perpetual turmoil?

Fortunately for those among us who are students of world history and current events, such a source already exists.  It is United Nations Documents, a historical and current compendium that privileges users with an inside look at the often complicated and convoluted inner workings of the world’s nations.

Chief among the benefits of United Nations Documents are its comprehensiveness, historical value and currency:

The United Nations as Teacher

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