We start off this week’s “What We’re Reading,” with three newsworthy items: NARA’s recent “Founders Online” report, the appointment of a new director at the Institute for the Study of Europe, and recent bills in Congress on “orphan works.” Next we link to two book reviews, one in which Robert McHenry examines the term “whig history,” and another where Anne Applebaum showcases how mighty (and scathing) the pen can be. Then, we turn to the digital realm, linking to a PowerPoint presentation on “Web 2.0 for Archivists,” and then to a survey on the quality of digital texts.
Digitization projects like Google Books are hot topics right now, but some sites have been scanning and displaying books for years. Case in point is the Feeding America site, a project of the Michigan State University Libraries, that has been up and running for nearly a decade. The online collection features 76 cookbooks from the late 18th to early 20th century that have been scanned in, transcribed, described, and made searchable (search by author, title, recipe name, or ingredients). There’s also a page on the site featuring Michigan State University Museum’s “extensive collection of cooking utensils and kitchenware.”
Visit the project page, read the introduction essay by Jan Longone that attempts to treat developments in cookbook publishing as emblematic of larger social cultural developments, or take the video tour to learn more about the featured cookbooks and the digitization process.
University of Vermont sociologist James Loewen has created a web site where visitors can explore a controversial topic in American history: sundown towns. This largely-forgotten practice, which refers to counties and municipalities requiring racial minorities to leave their borders after daylight hours, occurred mostly in the North and Midwest, in contrast with Southern segregation. Loewen, who wrote a book on the subject (Sundown Towns: A Hidden Dimension of American Racism), provides site visitors with a database of possible sundown towns (which users can submit additions to), population files for several states for greater research, tips for amateurs interested in contributing to the historical research, and even a newsletter (PDF)—"dedicated to the abolition of its subject"—which explores the topic further and provides additional advice for doing research.
The electronic monographs published by Columbia University Press in the Gutenberg-e Project are now available in an open-access form through the University’s Libraries, and are also being made available through ACLS Humanities E-Book (HEB). By taking this new step, we will continue the project’s ongoing experiment with different forms of electronic publication, and also hope to demonstrate whether open-access publications will garner greater use and more citations from students and scholars.
The two sites will offer distinct benefits and experiences.
The 2007 National Book Festival, organized and sponsored by the Library of Congress and hosted by First Lady Laura Bush, will be held this Saturday, September 29, 2007, in Washington, D.C. Pavilions will be set up on the National Mall between 7th and 14th streets from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The festival is free and open to the public. Over 70 authors from various fields including children’s literature, home and family, mysteries and thrillers, fantasy, poetry, and history and biography will be present (see the complete list of authors here).
Rare and out-of-print books from both Cornell University Library and Emory University are getting new life through print-on-demand services. In June 2006, Cornell University Library announced its new program to digitize, and make available for print, books from its collections through a partnership with BookSurge (a subsidiary of Amazon.com). And just recently the library released the news that in the next six months the materials available for print will jump from 3,500 to 6,000 titles.
The Gutenberg-e program recently published two new publications that demonstrate some of the unique new ways history scholarship can be presented online. The new monographs are:
Advocating The Man: Masculinity, Organized Labor, and the Household in New York, 1800-1840 by Joshua R. Greenberg and The Creation of Color in Eighteenth-Century Europe by Sarah Lowengard.
Greenberg’s book crosses the usual boundaries between social and cultural history, demonstrating “how working men’s lived domestic experiences notably shaped organized labor activities in early nineteenth-century New York and informed particular household-based responses to emerging systems of market capitalism.”
Lowengard’s book examines science and technology in eighteenth-century Europe through a focus on changing understandings of color.
Donate Your Books and Journals
Is your office or home filled up with books and journals that you have been contemplating for some time, while wondering what you should do with them? Before you consign them to a yard sale or the trash dumpster (yes, sometimes spring cleaning fever can have pretty dramatic symptoms—even for magpies or ardent bibliophiles who can’t part with anything that is printed and bound), think of the many libraries (and scholars) around the world for whom a copy of a recent book on European or American history, or a good run of the AHR, will be an enriching and useful addition to their collections.