Wednesday, May 18, 2011

New Database: American Antiquarian Society (AAS) Historical Periodicals Collection

Illustration showing the Boston Massacre from Freeholder's Magazine, or, Monthly Chronicle of Liberty, May 1770.

The American Antiquarian Society (AAS) is one of the most important archives of the American past--anywhere. They are "an independent research library founded in 1812 in Worcester, Massachusetts. The library's collections document the life of America's people from the colonial era through the Civil War and Reconstruction."

In an Annual Report a few years back, the Society noted that "through partnerships with leading publishing companies, the Society has embarked on an ambitious multi-year initiative to provide digital access to collections. Digitization is indeed transformational, as it allows one to “read” through millions of pages in search of particular words or phrases with just a few keystrokes and then to “see” the pages rendered on the computer screen in remarkable fidelity. Search and retrieval is further aided by the incorporation of excellent cataloging metadata and tools to browse collections quickly and to save or print selections for sharing, teaching, or future reference."

One of the AAS partners is Ebsco. And we have purchased the first two modules of a tremendous archive of historical periodical materials called the American Antiquarian Society (AAS) Historical Periodicals Collection. This collection includes digitized images of American magazines and journals never before available outside the walls of the AAS, and these resources are not currently available in digital from from any other source.

AAS president Ellen Dunlap has commented that “existing indexes of historical periodicals are often somewhat ‘sketchy’ and usually only cover the ‘mainstream’ periodical titles, [but EBSCO's] full-text digitization [reveals] vast storehouses of information which have been completely hidden from researchers in the past, and that’s very exciting.”

The first module is AAS Historical Periodicals Collection: 1691-1820, which presents 550 titles dating from 1693 through 1820. Series 2 presents over 1000 titles dating from 1821 through 1837. Subjects covered include everything from Arts to Industry to Government to Religion to Science....and of course these serials vividly provide contemporary accounts of the Colonial Period, the Revolutionary War and the Early Republic. There will be five series in all, closing out in 1877. We hope to be able to afford the other modules later.

Searching is fairly straight-forward. And although you sometimes have to re-orient or re-size the images, everything I looked at was remarkably clear, considering the age of the material.

We hope that you will enjoy delving into this amazing archive, with or without a specific assignment or research project.

[Find AAS Historical Periodicals Collection in the Online Catalog, our A-Z database list, or in our Subject Database Lists for the Social Sciences or Literature, Arts and Humanities.]

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