Unique History Database Trial

We’ve set up a trial to a rather unusual history database called Originally marketed to genealogists, has only recently come to the attention of research libraries. Institutions supporting serious history research and scholarship are taking an interest in because of a unique partnership with NARA, the National Archives and Records Administration. According to a NARA promotional document created in early February, “The National Archives and are working as partners to bring unprecedented access to selections of the vast holdings of the National Archives.” Highlights include Papers of the Continental Congress (1774-89), the Matthew B. Brady Collection of Civil War Photographs, and the Investigative Case Files of the Bureau of Investigation, 1908-1922. More recently added according to the website are records of the Constitutional Convention. The technology for displaying images is really slick: zoom way in on a document, rotate it, even add your own comments and annotations. The last “feature” is perhaps not ideal for serious scholars as it tends to clutter the screen. At least the annotations can be turned off. One caveat with this database is that the NARA material is interspersed with documents uploaded by genealogists, amateur researchers, and individual subscribers. Granted, individuals often have nice things to share. However, it’s incongruous to give local and family history documents the same weight as primary-source NARA material. Clearly the developers of this database are striving, in a Web 2.0 sort of way, to be as inclusive and interactive as possible. Please have a look at this database and let me know what you think in the comments or via email. —David C. Murray

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