Publication Date

May 5, 2009



As a pillar of preservation, archiving plays a pivotal role in the study of history. Many organizations have decided to supplement their physical archives with digital ones, making historic texts and images accessible to masses (arguably a major asset of the internet). The following are just a few digital archives available for both academic and personal exploration.

Brown v. Board of Education Digital ArchiveBrown v. Board of Education
The Brown v. Board of Education digital archives, maintained by the University of Michigan Library, includes documents and photographs detailing the events surrounding the historic case of Brown v. Board of Education. Archived materials include related court cases, the desegregation of Ann Arbor public schools, resegregation issues, a collection of photographs from The Charlotte Observer, legal transcripts, oral histories, and a bibliography of further readings. There is also a list of other web sites that may be of interest, such as Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site and American Bar Association’s Commission on the 50th Anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education.

Civil Rights in Mississippi
Civil Rights in Mississippi, organized by the University of Southern Mississippi Libraries, “seeks to: 1) enhance access to primary source material, 2) preserve original materials by creating digital surrogates, 3) create learning opportunities for remote users, and 4) create an infrastructure for a continuing digitization program.” Searchable databases include the Mississippi Digital Library, oral history transcripts, and manuscripts and photographs. Historical context information links to information on civil rights in different Mississippi towns, a timeline starting in 1900, and acronyms of organizations associated with the Civil Rights movement.

Early Americas Digital ArchiveEarly Americas Digital Archive
The Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities (MITH) created the Early Americas Digital Archive (EADA) covering texts from 1492 to 1820. MITH encourages scholars from all disciplines to share their original early America texts and/or their publications on the period. This site has two primary archival sections: 1) the archive itself, which allows you to search EADA’s database; and 2) the gateway, offering texts by early American authors available through both EADA and other sites.

Free Speech Movement
Free Speech Movement (FSM) “document[s] the role of Mario Savio and other participants in the Free Speech Movement (University of California at Berkeley, September-December 1964), as well as its origins in political protest and civil rights movements and its legacy of political activism and educational reform that can be traced throughout the country and the world down to the present.” Reference the site’s bibliography listing manuscripts, books, articles, oral histories, pamphlets, legal documents, reports and studies, as well as links to other pertinent web sites. Search archives ranging from letters to legal defenses, as well as the site’s collections guide linking to other digital archives. Watch videos and listen to recordings from the Free Speech Movement.

The National Archives Experience
The National Archives Experience tells the story of the United States through various thematically arranged vaults, which you can collect as you explore and/or backtrack so you can keep track of the vaults you’ve visited. The vaults cover nearly every imaginable U.S. historic era, from events such as George Washington’s Inaugural Address to people like Albert Einstein. The site also has a pathway challenge, “a series of clues that reveal relationships between photographs, documents, and other records” available through various different vaults. For example, Men and Monuments presents a picture of Abraham Lincoln and asks you to find a corresponding link from the web of images and documents supplied. You can also create a poster, movie, or your own pathway challenge using the site’s archived material.

Thomas Jefferson Digital Archive
The Thomas Jefferson Digital Archive
The Thomas Jefferson Digital Archive offers a spectrum of resources written on, to, or by the 3rd president, including digital texts; a biography; quotations from the Jeffersonian Cyclopedia, Jefferson’s writings, and the Oxford English Dictionary; and special collections, which feature Muse and Confidante: The Angelica Schuyler Church Archive, Landmarks of American Nature Writing, “Arise and Build!” A Centennial Commemoration of the 1895 Rotunda Fire, and Lewis & Clark: The Maps of Exploration, 1507-1814. Read “a comprehensive documentary edition of the papers surrounding the construction of the Academical Village, Jefferson’s 19th-century architectural masterpiece at the University of Virginia at Charlottesville.” The site also offers a bibliography of other writings on the president.

This post first appeared on AHA Today.

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