Internet Resources: December 2022 Edition
Selected reviews of digital reference resources from Choice.
Posted on in Internet Resources
Posted on November 2, 2017 in Internet Resources
Aaron Copland Collection, from the Library of Congress.
[Visited Aug’17] Aaron Copland—one of the most important composers of the 20th century—strove through his work as a performer, teacher, writer, commentator, and administrator to foster distinctively American music. In the late 1950s he began placing his papers at the Library of Congress. The Copland collection now comprises approximately 400,000 items, from which about 1,000 have been selected for digitization and inclusion in this inaugural online collection. The items selected provide a fascinating cross-section of the larger collection, and include music sketches, correspondence, articles and speeches, and photographs. There are sketches for 31 works dating from 1924 to 1967 that cover every medium in which he composed: orchestral, ballet, opera, film, chamber, solo piano, and vocal music. The digitized correspondence includes about 800 letters, postcards, and telegrams, both personal and professional. The writings presented include 86 previously unpublished drafts of articles and speeches, while the photographs are largely portraits of Copland at various life stages or posing with other composers and associates, as well as pictures from his world travels. Navigation is achieved intuitively by browsing or by entering terms in a single search box. Some of the browsing facets appear at first puzzling, however, such as the indicator that there are only three items categorized under broad date ranges; in fact, burrowing into this facet reveals a time line—a helpful organizational device providing an overview of the different decades represented within the collection. Images are uniformly of high quality. All in all, a useful exhibit for a user who wants to dip into the archival sources available regarding this influential master. Summing Up: Recommended. All libraries. All levels. —M. D. Jenkins, Wright State University
American Business: Agricultural Newspapers; American Business: Mercantile Newspapers. Readex, 2017. For academic libraries, Readex offers a one-time tiered purchase price with an annual maintenance fee.
[Visited Aug’17] Readex has just released two new collections—Agricultural Newspapers and Mercantile Newspapers—forming part of the American Business component of America’s Historical Newspapers. Previous reviewers evaluating Readex’s search interface and functionality have commented both favorably and critically. This reviewer, for one, is disappointed by the platform’s Dates and Eras searching feature, which is highly relevant to the effective exploration of these collections. The options presented on the home page, while logical, are merely date ranges (e.g., “Era of Good Feelings [1816 to 1822]: Spain cedes FL to U.S., Missouri Compromise, Denmark Vesey executed” or “U.S. Civil War [1861 to 1865]: Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, Sherman’s March, President Lincoln assassinated, Slavery abolished”). While these broad divisions are helpful, beginning and advanced researchers can usually formulate such searches on their own. It would be preferable if Readex developed another search function that reflected specific events or movements relevant to the subject matter of the newspaper collection. Similar in function to the Events tab in Readex’s platform hosting Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS): Daily Reports, 1941-1974 (CH, Sep’13, 51-0047), for example, a search could easily be executed to retrieve all items relevant to the establishment of the US Department of Agriculture in 1862. Although time-consuming for publishers to implement, such features are the reasons why librarians are willing to pay for collections like these that are in the public domain and otherwise freely available.
Newspapers are an important primary source, and both of these collections provide content relevant to a variety of scholars. Superficially, the collections’ main topics (agriculture and commerce) might not seem relevant to scholars interested in social history, for instance; however this is not the case. Mercantile Newspapers provides details concerning the frequency of mail delivery between towns and the schedules of steamboats and stagecoaches. Such information, as well as the price and availability of goods, is useful to many historical investigations. Because commerce likewise encompasses a breadth of topics—from labor (free and enslaved) to mining to sellable household goods—the uses for such primary materials are endless.
Collections such as these are only as good as what they contain. The Agricultural Newspapers product includes materials from 1788 to 1894. The majority of papers are from the original 13 colonies, and particularly New England. Only 17 titles with two or more issues are from outside of these areas of early settlement. While the abundance of titles from this region reflects the demographics and geography where newspaper publishing flourished, the dominance of just single editions from other parts of the US demonstrates the hardscrabble reality of the times. Readex’s marketing materials and the database itself do little to explain or alert users to the serious geographical limitations of the assembled collection. Another concern about its breadth is the odd stop date (1894); one would expect coverage to go at least an additional two years, to 1896, when the People’s Party—a political party with many rural American members—supported William Jennings Bryan in his first run for the White House. Coverage well beyond 1894 with greater geographic diversity would make this collection even more valuable to researchers.
Purchase of such collections represents a large financial outlay for any academic library. While both of these products are useful for historical research in all fields, the fact that the titles included in these collections are in the public domain with some content already freely available in enhanced digital projects necessitates significant analysis on the part of library selectors and their clientele. The Agricultural Newspapers component would be a welcome resource at any New England institution, or those with scholars focusing on agrarian life in the region. The Mercantile Newspapers content is useful for scholars interested in daily life from 1783 to 1900, particularly because it is a bit more geographically diverse. Still, before one recommends purchase of either component, a close analysis is warranted to know which specific titles are available elsewhere and to ascertain how well these materials fit the research and teaching agendas within one’s institution. Summing Up: Recommended. Upper-level undergraduates through researchers/faculty. —S. E. Morris, University of Kansas
American Gazettes: Newspapers of Record. Readex, 2017. For academic libraries, Readex offers a one-time tiered purchase price with an annual maintenance fee.
[Visited Aug’17] The term gazette was first used to refer to a government publication that provided official notice of legal or other official actions and announcements and appeared weekly or monthly. Private publishers used it in the titles of their publications to indicate that it contained small pieces of information, briefer than what one usually found in traditional newspapers. They also expanded the scope of their gazettes to include a wide variety of information, such as business advertisements or ship arrivals and departures. Researchers can readily make good use of this detailed historical or genealogical information, which offers an ideal way to track the routine and interesting minutia of daily activities that cannot be readily found without undertaking an extensive search through personal diaries or old newspapers.
This collection covers more than 100 publications from 35 states. Small towns are represented along with large cities. One can sort columns in the table display within the Newspaper Titles section to discover those supplying the most issues (the Pittsfield [MA] Sun, with 3,880 issues dating from 1813 to 1877) or sizeable content from outside the Eastern Seaboard (e.g., the Oregonian, 1861–1922; Daily Milwaukee News, 1861–73; Grand Forks Daily Herald 1840–88). Curiously, one can find several papers (The Boston Post-Boy, 1735–50, and New-Hampshire Gazette, 1787–93) that predate Readex’s advertised dates of coverage (1796 to 1884). The collection’s home page has a single search box for keyword searches, or one can use the advanced search feature to limit terms to specific fields (headline, title, full text, date). Both basic and advanced search queries can be restricted to a customized date range or historical era, by publication title, by place of publication, or by language (English or German). One can view results by focusing on a detailed item, or retrieve an entire page of a publication. Controls allow one to enlarge and minimize images, print them, or download an entire issue of a publication. The page images are clear, and the search process is smooth and easy enough to navigate with on-screen instructions.
Part of Readex’s vast Archive of Americana (CH, Jul’17, 54-4988) collection, American Gazettes specifically complements other resources offered within the “America’s Historical Newspapers” series (as the search interface labels the citations on the printed results lists). The resource is suitable for historical societies, public libraries, or academic institutions whose research initiatives or programs of study require students or faculty to make heavy use of primary source documents. Summing Up: Recommended. Undergraduates through researchers and faculty; general readers. —D. K. Blewett, College of DuPage
American Religion: Denominational Newspapers. Readex, 2017. For academic libraries, Readex offers a one-time tiered purchase price with an annual.
[Visited Aug’17] This fascinating collection of rarely seen US denominational newspapers offers the full text—often complete runs—of approximately 320 periodicals published from the late 18th to the early 20th centuries. Coverage is national, representing newspapers from New York to Hawaii. More than 3,000 issues of the Presbyterian Church’s weekly New-York Observer top the list (dating 1823–77), while the long tail of incomplete runs or singletons includes 30 extant issues of Ka Elele, published 1845–55 in Honolulu. Unfortunately, only brief bibliographic information is provided; one can consult the Library of Congress’s freely accessible Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers (CH, Jul’15, 52-5636) database at chroniclingamerica.loc.gov to find that the latter title was published by the Sandwich Island Mission (in Hawaiian, not in English, as noted here).
Users may begin to explore the collection’s more than one million pages by opting for a basic keyword or advanced search, which allows limiting a search to full text, headline, title, or date fields. Since only a small portion of the content can be searched by headline, users are advised through context-sensitive help instructions to use the full-text option. Rows can be added to expand searching. Appearing beneath the search boxes are options to limit by dates and eras, newspaper titles, places of publication, article type, and language (English, French, German, Spanish); these tabs open to sections that also function as browsing tools. A helpful design feature permits the retrieval of results that match the filters, whether one types a keyword or not. One can thus browse, for instance, items of a certain type (advertisements, birth/death/matrimony notices, etc.) limited to a particular place. As noted above, the bibliographic information on each newspaper is minimal, but one may conveniently display (and rank order) by titles, number of issues available, date ranges, and places of publication.
Search results can be sorted by relevancy and in chronological or reverse-chronological order. The results display basic bibliographic information (publication date, title, location, headline, and article type) and a clear thumbnail image indicating where the keyword appears. One may choose to view the article showing the keyword highlighted, or retrieve the entire page (which, for oversized pages, may load slowly). The Add to My Collection option allows one to build a set of search results and print or email them, export the links to a pop-up window from which they can be copied into another document, or save the citations as a text file. Oddly, these handy options do not appear together in one place. Search history is available, but cannot be downloaded as part of the search results. The quality of the images is good. Options (zoom, full-screen mode) typically associated with PDF images are available, and—on an image-by-image basis—one can email, print, or download individual articles or entire issues as PDFs. While the vagaries of the interface can be mastered with practice (or better, could be improved upon), the unique content collocated within American Religion: Denominational Newspapers is valuable in its own right, and collection developers in theology libraries or institutions with strong religious studies programs should take a closer look. Summing Up: Recommended. Upper-level undergraduates through researchers/faculty. —E. M. Bosman, New Mexico State University Library
Anthropological Fieldwork Online. Alexander Street, 2017. Contact publisher for perpetual-purchase pricing (scaled by institutional size and budget); annual academic subscription ranges from $1,700.00 to $5,665.00.
[Visited Aug’17] What is better than easily searchable, previously unpublished papers of seminal cultural anthropologists? Building on its excellent Ethnographic Video Online collection (CH, May’15, 52-4549), this newest Alexander Street Press curated collection provides access to original field notes of several of the field’s greats: Bronislaw Malinowski, Victor Turner, Max Gluckman, Raymond Firth, Margaret Mead, and Ruth Benedict; others, including Charles Seligman and Edith Durham, are promised in the near future. Discussions are underway with libraries, archives, and estates to also include the papers of Alfred Kroeber, Marvin Harris, Edmund Leach, and perhaps others, with an anticipated 250,000 pages upon completion. At the time of review, collections tallied more than 100,000 pages, constituting more than 15,000 works (according to counters displaying results throughout the interface, although these numbers vary depending on the particular authority files or search results one views). In addition to field notes, the archive contains correspondence, photographs, kinship charts, drawings, maps, minutes, lectures, research notes, prepublication drafts, transcriptions, and ephemera. Researchers can, in some cases, follow the progression of research in the field to published foundational ethnographies.
Archival curation standards are evident in the collection’s organization by finding aid order—box, folder, and series. Hand-written notes, viewable as images, have keyword-rich metadata to enhance discoverability. Most typed materials have been rekeyed. Shared curatorship with partner repositories is described in supporting documentation, including the Royal Anthropological Institute, London School of Economics, Vassar College, and Yale. Navigation is straightforward with a simple search box on the home page and a well-developed advanced search. The collection is browsable by archival collection, content type, cultural group, and subject. Results can be further refined by various context-sensitive filters (anthropologist/ethnographer, date written/recorded, etc.). Images load quickly by clicking thumbnails. It is easy to view metadata, transcriptions, and related items.
Alexander Street follows in the footsteps of Adam Matthew Digital, which has made Newberry Library archival content available via a fairly pricey subscription to its American Indian Histories and Cultures collection (CH, Mar’14, 51-3592). Anthropological Fieldwork Online is more moderately priced, scaled by school size and budget, with an option for one-time purchase (perhaps a good use of end-of-year funds). In tight financial times, schools with smaller budgets may still not justify the cost when so much archival content is being made freely available by university library digital repositories. The publisher, now a ProQuest division, seems to recognize these concerns and has committed 10 percent of revenues toward building what it calls an “Anthropology Commons” on the same platform, and has made the papers of Ruth Benedict openly accessible. Kudos to Alexander Street for their “Sensitivity Statement and Takedown Policy” allowing for challenges to content that may contain negative stereotypes or inaccurate representations of Indigenous history, culture, and language. Libraries with generous budgets that support anthropology, Indigenous studies, colonial studies, and related programs should consider acquisition of the resource. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Undergraduates through professionals/practitioners. —M. Cedar Face, Southern Oregon University
Arcadian Library Online: History of Science and Medicine Collection. Bloomsbury, 2017. Contact publisher for consortial pricing information; perpetual-access licensing is $14,000.00.
[Visited Aug’17] No history of medicine and science fails to remind us that after the fall of the Roman Empire and its fragmentation, the peoples of the Middle East became the depositaries and curators of the 1,500 years of knowledge gathered in classical antiquity, and that this knowledge reentered Europe from then Arab-ruled Al-Andalus (Spain) and southern Italy. However, the original contributions those curators made to the body of scientific and medical knowledge does not always receive the same consideration. The launch of the Arcadian Library Online is important in that it draws renewed scholarly attention to those contributions. The collection consists of an easy-to-browse, searchable virtual facsimile library of around 200 volumes from the 9th through the 20th centuries, of mostly printed material, with original manuscripts and a number of incunabula. The volumes cover many areas of interest, from agriculture, alchemy, and astrology; to health, disease, and physiology; to mathematics and physics; to travel and exploration. Half of these texts are in Latin, but a fair number are in Arabic, English, and French. A small number of titles are in Hebrew, Greek, Persian, and Spanish.
The collection is organized in a user-friendly way. The volumes are grouped into clear, broad categories, and a set of basic but effective search tools makes the collection accessible. The texts themselves are not searchable, but each one has a thorough description that helps refine the search into each given topic. All facsimiles in the collection are of outstanding quality and visual appeal. Browsing through the Arcadian Library collection is an aesthetic pleasure. While most, if not all, of its contents can already be found in excellent translations and commented editions, the collection is useful for experts working on comparing editions and, above all, for those pursuing new translations. This is good news. After all, there is no such thing as the definite translation of an ancient text, since translations are efforts to transform the old word (and worldview) into the contemporary lexicon, whose very nature is changing and provisional. This new quarry will be welcomed by libraries of universities that host large Middle Eastern studies departments, not to mention Middle Eastern institutions that want to foster studies on their cultural heritage. The Arcadian Library Online website and all its features and functions are fully available in both English and Arabic. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-level undergraduates through faculty/researchers; professionals/practitioners. —P. Rodriguez del Pozo, Weill Cornell Medical College
[Visited Aug’17] One should be aware from the outset that Debate.org (billed as an “Online Debate Community”) is not a scholarly resource, but merely a product of Web 2.0 technology that enables people to exchange viewpoints in a structured format. Launched in 2007 by software entrepreneurs Phillip and Crystal Ferreira but now owned by website developer Juggle.com, the site features sections titled Debates, Opinions, Forums, Polls, and Big Issues. In a debate, one member (the “instigator”) challenges another member (the “contender”) to discuss a topic; the Demographics section under About proclaims there are more than 435,00 registered users in the Debate.org community (styled “DDO”), and a total of 62,000 debates (or nearly 75,000, depending on which counter one clicks). Each debate can go from one to five rounds, and once the debate concludes the community votes for the winner. Numerous topics are offered for debate (politics clearly dominates), along with links to archived or ongoing debate commentary.
The Opinions section (e.g., “Should plea bargaining be abolished?”) presents questions, arguments, or comments that first pass through automated filters and then are manually reviewed by a team of moderators. The Forums (Arts, Education, Funny, etc.) and Polls (e.g., “Do you think hijab is oppressing women?” “Was Stalin a tyrant?”) sections are exactly what they appear—a miscellany. The FAQ section informs users about the main topic areas and outlines the site’s code of conduct (to promote “intellectual and thought-provoking conversation”). The assorted Big Issues section (national health care, medical marijuana, term limits, United Nations, etc.) presents a brief history, but the site unfortunately offers no cited sources and there is no consistency in the quality of these overviews, nor in the caliber of the contributors’ comments. Overall, the site may entertain by allowing one to participate in polls or vote on the arguments, but Debate.org is decidedly non-academic and not a research site. Also worth noting is that the site appeared to go down in the late evenings through the early mornings, perhaps when members are most active. Summing Up: Not recommended. —R. I. Saltz, Independent scholar
NIEonline Serving Newspapers in Education: Classroom Resources.
[Visited Jul’17] NIEonline.com developers work with managers of independent Newspapers in Education programs to offer a selection of useful tools for educators who want to bring news into K-12 classrooms and work to engage students with news media. This resource is especially welcome in the wake of the past year’s lively, confusing discussion of “fake news.” Individual newspapers work with NIEonline.com to create customized websites that serve up their news content to local classrooms, along with additional national and international news, lesson plans, and interactive activities. For examples, see the Seattle Times at nie.seattletimes.com and the Augusta Chronicle at nieonline.com/augusta/index.cfm—both are customized sites offering locally relevant content and NIEonline resources for student use, all updated weekly.
The site offering classroom resources is divided into three sections: Lesson Modules, which contains descriptions of content for classroom use; Serial Story, providing sample chapters and activities for an online book on financial literacy; and the NIE Weekly Tickler, where teachers and students can view updated lesson modules for the week. Lesson modules, aligned with Common Core standards, include using news to learn geography and vocabulary words, as well as activities where students can analyze political cartoons. Through partnerships with the National Wildlife Fund and NBC Learn, the site also provides lesson modules promoting STEM learning. Video and audio resources are included as well. The site is straightforward and easy to explore, and offers access to archives of past class activities, many of which are available as PDFs. The real strength of the site is its provision of content that will be interesting to a younger audience and of tools to encourage K-12 students to examine that content. A useful pedagogical site that high school or college-level journalism educators will want to know about too. Summing Up: Recommended. High school through undergraduate students; journalists and instructors. —E. A. Nicol, Washington State University
Rand Daily Mail (1902–1985). Readex, 2017. For academic libraries, Readex offers a one-time tiered purchase price with an annual maintenance fee.
[Visited Aug’17] One of the most essential types of primary source materials for any social-science researcher lies in the pages of newspapers that chronicle daily events of particular regions and nations. To validate one’s arguments and hypotheses, these sources must necessarily present a variety of political stances; nowhere is this requirement as evident as in South Africa. A significant critical voice in South African and world journalism—from the waning days of the British Empire through two world wars, the Union of South Africa, and the contentious years of the apartheid regime—the contents of Johannesburg’s Rand Daily Mail provide vital information that will be useful to disciplines as varied as African studies, history, political science, journalism, law, and literature.
The conversion of its complete 83-year run to a searchable, digital full-text and image database by Readex covers most of the troubling 20th century. Access is provided via a link from the Newsbank launch page, which displays an institution’s licensed content (along with general special reports highlighted by the publisher). The paper itself, however, is awkward to navigate. The spare search screen presented as the Rand Daily Mail gateway page is unlabeled save for the directions “enter a word or term”; when one does so, the displayed results indicate that matches have come from “Alltext” (whereas, if one choses to do an advanced search from the outset, a similar set of results defaults to “Fulltext”). There is no option to search by author, title, or subject, although if one notices the small “Edit search” link, returning to the advanced search facilitates limiting keywords to specified fields (full text, date, citation text, or place of publication). Search totals are presented by both decade and year and can be sorted by best, recent, or oldest matches first. Given the prominent role played in South Africa by individual opposition journalists during the apartheid regime, the inability to retrieve their works by an author search is a glaring defect of Readex’s generic AllSearch platform.
Users (and potential purchasers trying out the resource) expect to find some sort of FAQs offering essential bibliographic information (e.g., publishing history and perhaps options to access the current newspaper, revived in 2014 by Times Media Group), plus details about the curation of this important resource. (Is the Readex digital edition unique? Are issues not otherwise publicly available?) To fully appreciate the wealth of content that might be more compelling if highlighted within the platform one must do a Google search to find answers at readex.com/content/rand-daily-mail-1902-1985. Despite shortcomings of the interface, the resource will be useful for academic libraries supporting all levels of research in the social sciences, whether or not South Africa is a programmatic focus. Summing Up: Recommended. Undergraduate students through professionals/practitioners; general readers. —R. B. Ridinger, Northern Illinois University
SNAC (Social Networks and Archival Context): Prototype History Research Tool, from the Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities, University of Virginia.
[Visited Aug’17] The SNAC Prototype History Research Tool aggregates descriptive data about people and their social networks derived from more than 3.7 million records shared by over 4,000 public and private archives around the world. The project began in 2010 as a cooperative international initiative sponsored by the National Archives and Records Administration, the California Digital Library, and the University of Virginia (which hosts the site), with funding from several sources, including the Mellon Foundation, Institute of Museum and Library Services, and the National Endowment for the Humanities. The digital tool promises to save researchers considerable time by providing coordinated online access to archival and other primary-source materials described in catalogs, guides, and finding aids digitally published by libraries and other repositories.
The opening page presents a clean navigation interface with a tabbed search box for users to narrow searching by person, family, or organization; additional filters permit selection of these biographical records by occupation, subject, or location. A coding glitch appears to interfere with advanced search, as these options in a pull-down menu only become visible when one hovers over the space to the right of the search button. The All tab presents a gallery of images, but these appear randomly when one refreshes the home page; tapping any image or result in a list, however, opens a structured overview with a person’s image harvested from Wikipedia, biographical information (for individuals), linked collections, related names, visualizations, and local subject headings provided by the contributing repositories. Under Links to Collections, users can find cross-references to related archival collections and external links to the Digital Public Library of America (CH, Sep’13, 51-0002), ArchiveGrid (CH, Aug’14, 51-6477), and other authority files, which help researchers navigate various digital repositories’ catalogs. Displays include lists of collection locations and EAC-CPF (Encoded Archival Context—Corporate bodies, Persons and Families) records in XML format. Interactive radial graphs present links for researchers to explore webs of relationships—showing degrees of separation among people and associated entities. Clicking on the labeled facets opens new radial graphs; intriguing though the displays are, a guide for interpreting them would be helpful.
While the primary purpose and audience of the SNAC tool is to aid discovery by historians and other scholars, the site is sure to be useful to librarians, archivists, and curators as well who may want to use it to enrich thematic research collections, facilitate archival reference work or provenance research, or simply show it off in information-literacy instruction as an example of a promising digital humanities resource. Summing Up: Recommended. Upper-level undergraduates through professionals/practitioners. —A. Sabharwal, University of Toledo
Visualising Data Blog, from Andy Kirk.
[Visited Aug’17] This award-winning site, managed and edited by internationally reknowned, UK-based data-visualization expert Andy Kirk, is a timely collection of resources providing both theoretical discourse and practical tools. The home page contains recent blog posts, news and announcements, and an interactive visualization of the 100 most popular blog posts from the recent 100 days; disappointingly and ironically, this 100-days display is difficult to read because of its small font and overlapping design elements. The meat of the website is found on the well-written and well-cited blog, resources, and references pages. The frequently updated resources page provides a database of over 300 tools for designing data graphics, while the references page offers a resource list of over 100 books, plus a listing of undergraduate, postgraduate, certificate, and individual course modules for training offered by universities in the US and abroad. Fortunately, a very responsive, site-wide search box is located at the bottom of each page (not at the top, where some might expect to find it). Frankly, without the search function, finding particular topics by browsing the site would prove almost impossible. While some inevitable self-promotion of Kirk’s work is involved (and the ability to browse for content by subject would be a nice addition), the exceptional amount of high-quality information gathered here well supersedes any drawbacks. There is much here to support and inspire every data-visualization enthusiast, from beginner to expert. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All levels of students through professionals/practitioners. —E. Millspaugh, Grand Valley State University
Selected reviews of digital reference resources from Choice.
Posted on in Internet Resources
Selected reviews of digital reference resources from Choice.
Posted on in Internet Resources
Selected reviews of digital reference resources from Choice.
Posted on in Internet Resources
Selected reviews of digital reference resources from the August issue of Choice.
Posted on in Internet Resources