May 10, 2010
By Jessica Pritchard
Many state libraries, archives, museums, and historical societies use the web to digitize their resources and make their individual state’s history available for a broad audience to access for both general purposes or academic research. For this very reason, we’ve decided to highlight a few of these digital state libraries below.
Afro-Louisiana History and Genealogy
Dr. Gwendolyn Midlo Hall, professor emerita of history at Rutgers University and notable New Orleans historian, began her researching journey in 1984 for what is now the Afro-Louisiana History and Genealogy project. She combed through countless archives to capture the history of the thousands of slaves brought to Louisiana in the 18th and 19th centuries. The site explains, “Because the French and Spanish proprietors of Louisiana kept far more detailed records than their British counterparts at slave ports on the Atlantic coast, the records show valuable historical data.”
These invaluable records are now available in an online database of Dr. Hall’s compiled research, which is something the site says “is a once-unimaginable prize” because so many historians thought such historical data was lost over the years.
The data is organized around parameters including everything from slave names, to genders, to ages, to occupations, to illnesses, to family relationships, to ethnicity, to places of origin, and more. The site allows you to view original slave inventory sheets, even though many of them are in French and Spanish; they each contain an English caption to give you an idea of the document’s content.
LOUISiana Digital Library
Because the Afro-Louisiana History and Genealogy project centers on Louisiana history, you may also want to check out the LOUISiana Digital Library, a collaborative effort between 22 participating libraries, archives, museums, and history centers. You can browse this digital library of Louisiana history by topic, participating institution, media format, geographic focus, time period, and collection name. There is also a broad search that allows you to locate items across all of the library’s collections.
Digital Library of Georgia
The Digital Library of Georgia is a collaborative effort between libraries, archives, museums, and other educational facilities to share the state’s history and culture to as wide an audience as possible. You can explore their digital library by topics, such as education, literature, and religion; by time period; by Georgia counties; by participating institutions; or by media type. Also be sure to check out their featured collection, the Atlantic Historic Newspapers Archive.
Kentuckiana Digital Library
The Kentuckiana Digital Library offers access to digital archives documenting the state’s rich history: “The Kentuckiana Digital Library is your gateway to rare and unique digitized collections housed in Kentucky archives. These digital collections,” the site continues, “are built to enhance scholarship, research and lifelong learning.” You can search these archives by one of the following: archival finding aids, historic Kentucky newspapers, printed books, maps, manuscripts, and journals.
New York Public Library Digital Gallery
Digital archives aren’t strictly limited to documents; they can also include images, such as the New York Public Library Digital Gallery, which consists solely of images, many of which you can also find on the Commons on Flickr. The site has an extensive and impressive collections, such as Popular American Sheet Music Covers from 1890-1922, Cigarette Cards, Photographic Views of New York City from the 1870s through the 1970s, World War I Photographic Albums and Postcards, Vintage Holiday Postcards, and many more. The site also features, Digital Gallery Picks, which highlights certain collections. If you’re still not finding what you want or what you need, you can conduct a search on everything from Arts & Literature, to Culture & Society, to Industry & Technology.
With the support of the State Library of Ohio and the Ohio Historical Society, Ohio Memory allows you to “discover 75,000 primary sources from 330 archives, historical societies, libraries, and museums that document Ohio’s past from prehistory to the present.” Like most other digital libraries, you can search the site’s archives by keyword. For instance, a search for “Roosevelt” brings up a list of documents and images, such as this James M. Cox and Franklin D. Roosevelt campaign photo from 1920 when FDR was running for vice president. You can also search based on collection, such as this menu from The New Blue Goose, a cocktail lounge, located in the Clyde Public Library collection. Additionally, the site has organized its archives around subjects, places, and contributors. Finally, don’t miss their featured collection, World War II Oral Histories.