The Library is running two history-related database trials: Empire Online and Declassified Documents Reference Service (DDRS). Examine each database by clicking on its title (from this post), or by pointing your browser to the Trial Databases page. Both trials run through March 12, 2006. Quick Overview: Empire Online will appeal to those working on European history and the Colonial and Early National Periods in the Americas, Asia, Africa, and Oceania; DDRS will interest those studying American history and diplomacy during the Cold War (compare to the Digital National Security Archive). Empire Online By 2007, this database will consist of “over 70,000 [page] images [but not OCR-scanned texts] of original manuscripts and printed material, 1492-1962, taken from libraries and archives around the world.” The core of Empire Online consists of documents digitized from the archives of the British Library, the British National Archives (Kew) and the Bodleian Library, Oxford. To date, 463 documents have been imaged. The primary source material is supported by thirteen bibliographic essays written by historians. Each essay contains between 30 and 50 hyperlinks leading back into the primary source material. This unique arrangement means that Empire Online can be used very effectively to introduce undergraduate students to primary sources. Beyond its pedagogic value, Empire Online would no doubt delight faculty interested in easy access to a range of important primary documents in Empire Studies. Empire Online does have its drawbacks. The most significant seems to be the lack of a full-text search engine for the primary sources. (The bibliographic essays are, however, full-text searchable.) While this problem is not fatal given the database’s extensive indexing, it is a serious oversight. Sorely missed also is a side-by-side transcription of manuscripts. This is less of a concern when viewing images of printed sources. Declassified Documents Reference System (DDRS) This is the online version of the long-standing print DDRS. (See the already-subscribed-to Digital National Security Archive for an example of a very similar database.) DDRS “users can query every document in the database for any name, date, word, or phrase. Searches can also be focused according to document type, issue date, source institution, classification level, date declassified, sanitization, completeness, number of pages, and document number. The database ranges from the years immediately following World War II, when declassified documents were first made widely available, through the 1970s. Nearly every major foreign and domestic event of these years is covered: the Cold War, Vietnam, foreign policy shifts, the civil rights movement, and many others.” DDRS exists largely because thousands of researchers over the years have specifically requested the included documents from various presidential libraries. On the other hand, most of the documents available via the Digital National Security Archive were orginally made available through executive agency compliance with the 1966 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The two databases, though similar in purpose, are therefore unique; both are worth checking out. Please provide feedback — favorable or otherwise — on these databases to David C. Murray, History Librarian.
Digital Sanborn Maps, 1867-1970 provides digital access to more than 660,000 large-scale maps of more than 12,000 American towns and cities. In electronic form, Sanborn Maps take on much improved value over the microfilm versions of the same maps, allowing for greater flexibility of use and improved viewing possibilities. Users have the ability to easily manipulate the maps, magnify and zoom in on specific sections, and layer maps from different years. Sanborn fire insurance maps are the most frequently consulted maps in both public and academic libraries. These maps are valuable historical tools for urban specialists, social historians, architects, geographers, genealogists, local historians, planners, environmentalists, and anyone who wants to learn about the history, growth, and development of American cities, towns, and neighborhoods. They are large-scale plans containing data that can be used to estimate the potential risk for urban structures. This includes information such as the outline of each building, the size, shape and construction materials, heights, and function of structures, location of windows and doors. The maps also give street names, street and sidewalk widths, property boundaries, building use, and house and block numbers. Seven or eight different editions represent some areas. Textual information on construction details (for example, steel beams or reinforced walls) is often given on the plans while shading indicates different building materials. Extensive information on building use is given, ranging from symbols for generic terms such as stable, garage, and warehouse to names of owners of factories and details on what was manufactured in them. In the case of large factories or commercial buildings, even individual rooms and the uses to which they were put are recorded on the maps. Other features shown include pipelines, railroads, wells, dumps, and heavy machinery. Founded in 1867 by D. A. Sanborn, the Sanborn Map Company was the primary American publisher of fire insurance maps for nearly 100 years.
African-American Newspapers: The 19th Century is an important, primary resource for the study of U.S. history. Containing over 100,000 articles from seven newspapers including The North Star (Rochester, NY), The National Era (Washington, D.C.), and Freedom’s Journal (New York, NY), African-American Newspapers: The 19th Century provides an extraordinary window into the events and issues that affected the course of American history. When used in conjunction with our 20th Century African-American newspaper holdings on microfilm — e.g. Pittsburgh Courier, New York Amsterdam News, Philadelphia Tribune — Temple students and scholars can now study first-hand the entire sweep of American print media published by people of color for people of color. African-American Newspapers supports the study of social, political, and military history, African-American studies, literature, and a number of other humanities and social sciences disciplines. It does not provide analysis of the primary documents it contains. Instead, students should turn to the secondary literature, scholarly books and journal articles, to help contextualize the articles found in African-American Newspapers. Part IX of this database, acquired recently by the Libraries, brings full-text coverage of The Christian Recorder up to 1887. –David C. Murray